Minister and CPSU in war of words over changes to APS wage policy

By Jackson Graham

December 17, 2021

Ben Morton
Ben Morton, too. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Federal public service minister Ben Morton has defended linking APS pay rises to the private sector, claiming the sector’s union is “out of step with its own membership” on the issue.  

The union has refused to buy in on a challenge from the minister to choose between the 2% cap on wage growth that was removed in November and the new system of a wage price index that ties wage growth to private sector wages. 

CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly says the minister is disrespecting public servants by suggesting they have to choose between “two bad wage policies”. 

“What APS employees want to be able to do is genuinely negotiate on wages and conditions that have the capacity to deliver real wage increases,” Donnelly said. 

She said some agencies were now seeking to impose a cap as well as the wage price index, effectively allowing employers to increase wages by “whatever is lower”. 

The agencies have included the Office of Auditing and Assurance Standards Board, the Office of the Australian Standards Board, the Museum of Australian Democracy and the Australian Office of Financial Management. 

Morton told The Mandarin that projections showed the wage price index would mean APS wages exceeded 2% growth in the next few years. 

“I think it’s good that we remain in line and connected with what is happening in the private sector economy, as people who are paid by the taxpayer,” he said.

“We all benefit when the economy is strong and grows, and public servants should share that benefit as well. But they also shouldn’t be protected against any downturn in the private sector economy either – they need to be linked to the economy in which their fellow Australians live.” 

Morton said no public servant would have demanded they should have received a 2% pay rise when they saw people lining up a Centrelink at the beginning of the pandemic, or losing work hours. 

“I thank the public service for understanding why we took this measure and this is where I think the CPSU is actually out of step with its own membership,” he said. 

Donnelly disagrees, taking issue with the grandfathering of EBAs and lack of guaranteed real wage increase. 

“It seems like the minister is trying to pick a fight with a union before an election,” Donnelly said. 

“He should be concentrating on the real battles – making sure the public service has the competitive pay and conditions it needs to attract and retain workers in a competitive job market, lifting wages across the economy, and ensuring the capability of the APS.”


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