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Defence Force pay deal agreed for uniformed members

As members of the Australian Defence Force are sent off to fight a new war, they’re being asked to accept an effective pay cut over the next three years and a loss of existing entitlements.

The Mandarin has learned Public Service and Employment Minister Eric Abetz yesterday signed off on a new Workplace Remuneration Arrangement for ADF and Reserve members that cuts entitlements and offers only incremental increases over three years — each below inflation. The first instalment will increase wages by 1.5% on November 4, with subsequent increases in 2015 and 2016.

The new WRA will be presented to the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal next Wednesday by public service commissioner Stephen Sedgwick and Defence Force chief Mark Binskin (pictured with Prime Minister Tony Abbott). Yesterday the Australian Public Service Commission and Defence Minister David Johnson’s office began informing key staff of the decision. The process of informing ADF and Reserve members is expected to begin next week.

The total increase of 4.5% over three years is understood to be the highest deal offered to any department or agency by Abetz, who along with the APSC is responsible for endorsing all public service industrial wage agreements. In contrast, public servants in the Department of Defence are being asked to accept a deal representing a less than 1% increase.

However, The Mandarin understands the workplace agreement for ADF and Reserve members is to be close to cost-neutral, and an effective decrease in real terms, as it will be paid for by collapsing some or all of 17 existing Defence member entitlements into the base salary. ADF and Reserve entitlements include service and uniform allowances for all members, as well as separation, hardship, overseas and other language and skill-specific allowances.

The new agreement will apply to all ADF and Reserve members up to and including the rank of colonel. Once endorsed by the DFRT the agreement will be published in Defence’s pay and conditions manual.

Unlike public servants, members of the ADF are forbidden from taking industrial action, making this the first workplace agreement that will be completed under this government and setting an upper watermark that will constrain the Community and Public Sector Union as it negotiates the remaining more than 70 Commonwealth agency agreements yet to be finalised.

Assistant Minister of Defence Stuart Robert, who has responsibility for personnel issues, is travelling overseas and was unavailable for comment.

UPDATE: Defence Chief Mark Binskin issued a signal today to ADF staff to advise of the changes. In the signal, Binskin admitted many would be dissatisfied but the limitations were put in place by government:

“As you will be aware, we are in an economic and budgetary climate, where government has indicated the need for managed reduction in costs in which pay is a part across the federal public sector.

“While there is no doubt that the ADF provides a unique service to the nation, we must operate within the government’s wage framework when considering any remuneration package.

“Our salary increases are neither automatic nor are they an entitlement and we too need to demonstrate that increases to our salaries are premised on improvements in productivity and efficiency.”

Binskin will also confirm that some leave entitlements will be curtailed as part of the compulsory deal, including one CDF-approved leave days over the Christmas period as well as other entitlements:

“I know that leave is important to all ADF members and I have not taken this decision lightly.

“However, I believe that with the other leave provisions that are available, including short leave from duty, and the inequitable way that ERL has been applied across the ADF workforce in the past, these offsets are reasonable.”

More at The Mandarin: Human Services stands firm as union asks for strike trigger

Author Bio

Harley Dennett

Harley Dennett is editor at The Mandarin based in Canberra. He's held communications roles in the New South Wales public sector and Defence, and been a staff reporter for newspapers in Sydney and Washington DC.