Australian public sector policy fails to deliver decent pay rise and requires greater flexibility to meet needs

Media release – 13 November, 2020
Professionals Australia is disappointed that changes to the Federal Government’s wages policy will fail to provide agencies with the flexibility they need to attract required STEM skills into the public service.

Dale Beasley, Director at Professionals Australia - ACT Branch said that while there were some improvements in the new policy settings, it fell short in two critical areas.

“We appreciate that Assistant Minister Morton has added some much-needed rigour to how public sector wages are set compared with the arbitrary 2% wages cap, and that looking to the future it’ll allow wages to grow beyond 2%. But linking wages rises to the Wage Price Index at this point will strap employees to a rollercoaster of changing conditions over the next two years.”

“The private sector wages index is projected to fall to 1% in 2021, so public servants who come up to renegotiate their wage deals in that period will face a ‘valley of death,’ until the wage price index rises again, which is projected sometime late 2022.

“Public sector workers have already experienced years of wage suppression under the 2% cap, and most have also had scheduled pay increases deferred by 6 months at a time when family budgets are extremely tight.

“Public sector wages are actually a significant factor in driving up private sector wages. That’s important to consider at a time when governments are trying to put money back into the economy.”

Mr Beasley also said the changes to the wages policy failed to address the key issue of attracting STEM skills into the public service.

“The major problem with the current Australian Public Service wages policy is that is does not provide agencies with the flexibility to create competitive packages of wages and conditions that attract the required STEM skills into the areas of need. 

“Right now, a range of Federal agencies such as Defence are struggling to attract and retain skilled technical staff, especially at the early career level, because the wages and conditions they’re able to offer simply cannot compete with the private sector. So we end up spending more to employ contractors.

“We’re calling on the Federal Government to go beyond todays announcement, to get smarter and put in place a whole of service STEM workforce plan, that identifies the STEM skills required across the Australian Public Service and equips agencies with the flexibility to offer wages and conditions that attract employees to meet this need.”

“While today’s announcement will mean good things in years to come, further work must be done to ensure public sector workers receive fair and decent pay rises and Federal Government agencies are appropriately equipped to attract the skills they need.”

Media contact: Darren Rodrigo – 0414 783 405