Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) members gave the thumbs down to the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC)’s 10.5% pay offer on June 1. An overwhelming 86% of the 15,000 union members who voted rejected the offer, which comprised a 4% rise in the first year, 3.5% in the second year, and 3% in the third.
It was barely half the 20% rise the CPSU had been seeking (comprising 9%, 6% and 5% over the three years).
CPSU National Secretary Melissa Donnelly said: “Given the decade-long attack on APS employees’ wages and conditions and the skyrocketing cost of living, it is abundantly clear that APS employees are looking for something better.”
CPSU members want a “fair deal” and they want it “delivered on time”, Donnelly said. She said the pay rise the union was asking for “acknowledges what they have endured over the past decade” and that “takes steps to address the attraction and retention crisis”.
The CPSU reported that many members added comments to their ballot vote, such as:
“My HECS/HELP debt got indexed at a higher rate than [this].”
“Nowhere near close to cost-of-living increases and inflation, but even more importantly — fails to bridge the gap around past bargaining agreements and the extensive delays and pain we experienced back then. Just not good enough!”
“It is not enough and doesn't take into consideration all the past agreements where we have been underpaid and delayed.”
“This is poor, my rates increase was the same and that's already spent, no incentive for me to stay after 15 years in the Public Service.”
“Years of sub-par wage growth drive the need for a larger increase, as does inflation. Further, without a suitable pay rise for the APS, the gap between the public sector and private sector will continue to grow, pushing more incredible people into the private sector.”
“We want APS to attract and keep good people, we are at the lowest end of the wage scale and we are losing good employees because we are so much lower than industry rates.”
The vote opens the way for a strong industrial campaign to demand a realistic wage rise for federal public servants.
The union has lodged an application to take protected action ballot in Services Australia, the federal body which includes Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support services. The application, if approved, would give CPSU members in Services Australia the opportunity to vote on taking protected industrial action.
“This is a strategic decision that puts our members in a position where they can increase pressure on the APSC and the federal [Labor] government to deliver better outcomes in bargaining if necessary,” Donnelly said.
The APSC offer is the first to be made under the Labor government’s welcome move to re-establish a unified federal public service-wide bargaining system. It replaces the disastrous single-agency bargaining, which divided wages and conditions of APS employees for nearly three decades.