The Western Australian government’s public sector pay freeze is here to stay despite its budget forecasting a surplus of $1.2 billion in 2020-21.
State treasurer Ben Wyatt unveiled the budget on Thursday, committing a record $27.1 billion to fund a number of infrastructure projects over the next four years, including road and METRONET projects in Perth and regional WA.
Other promises made in the budget include $453 million for frontline service delivery, $492 million to build and upgrade schools, $306 million in additional funding for mental health services, and $314 million to recruit an additional 800 police officers over the next four years.
Wyatt also revealed wage increases for WA public servants would remain frozen at $1000 per year for a further two years, and would then revert to inflation. The cap has been in place for three years.
The treasurer first floated a continued wage freeze in April, which was met with the resistance from the public sector union.
Unions WA secretary Meredith Hammat has slammed the continuation of the wage freeze, according to WA Today.
“Public sector workers will be deeply disappointed to learn that the reward for their significant contribution is not an increased investment in the public sector, but a continuation of a deeply unpopular wages policy,” she said.
“A wages policy that helped our public sector workers wages keep pace with costs of living could have helped the recovery by providing additional stimulus to our local economy at a critical time.”
Wyatt has reportedly said that while the decision to keep the cap was unpopular, “when you’re in the public sector, you’ve got a secure job and that’s certainly worth its weight in gold”.
Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association branch secretary Rikki Hendon said that while some of the measures outlined in the budget would support public service delivery, including increased spending on TAFE, the union had hoped for more support for its members.
“When we look at today’s budget it is very much focused on a jobs-led recovery. So as the public sector union for WA, the CPSU/CSA is incredibly disappointed that we haven’t seen an investment in public sector jobs as part of that jobs-led recovery,” she said.
“Public sector workers drove Western Australia’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. They assisted us in the health sector, they continued to deliver services when many other industries understandably had to shut down. They provided us with support at a time when we needed it most and they’ll continue to be pivotal as we move forward. It is incredibly disappointing that they’re not seeing further investment.”
However, Hendon noted the government should be commended for its response to COVID-19.