It didn’t work for the federal government, but now Western Australia has vowed to cap public sector pay rises to 1.5% in another blow to bureaucrats who have borne the brunt of cost-cutting austerity in the post-mining boom.
Treasurer Mike Nahan said last week the new “wages policy” will ensure future pay rises are “sustainable in the current challenging fiscal environment”. But the union calls it “chest-beating” ahead of enterprise bargaining negotiations.
The 1.5% cap for the state’s 140,000 employees is consistent with the Department of Treasury’s CPI forecast for 2015-16, Nahan says. He says salary costs account for 40% of total recurrent spending this financial year.
Any increase above 1.5% will need to be absorbed within existing agency budgets, Nahan says.
The Treasurer said in a statement the revised policy is “essential for the responsible management of the state’s finances”:
“While the government has achieved considerable success in recent years in reining in unsustainable growth in salary expenses — bringing annual average growth down to 4.5% over the period 2012-13 to 2014-15 after a decade average of 7.8% — further efforts are required in light of declines in revenues.”
The government has applied efficiency dividends across agencies and significantly sliced head counts as it deals with revenue shortfalls. The union puts the number at 10,000 jobs since Premier Colin Barnett came to power.
Community and Public Sector Union branch secretary Toni Walkington told AAP the Treasurer is creating an argument with bureaucrats before the bulk of negotiations even commence. Around 17 deals must be struck before the next election.
“Our members will approach the next round of bargaining sensibly and rationally, with resolute determination for an outcome that respects the valuable work they do and encourages a robust public service,” she said.
The Treasurer says WA public servants are some of the highest paid in Australia, with nurses, teachers and police officers paid more than their counterparts in the east.