Public servants short-changed in pay deal

May 22, 1991

By Peter Boyle

The Hawke government completed its wage deal with the Public Service Union and the ACTU on May 15. While it rejects the recent Industrial Relations Commission wage decision, it delivers substantially less that the aggregate outcome agreed under Accord Mark VI.

Federal public servants and employees in federal government business enterprises receive a flat $12 pay increase. Further productivity-based payments will be paid only after they are negotiated in September 1991, March 1992 and September 1992.

Employees of government businesses will have to negotiate on an enterprise basis for these payments. Public servants will negotiate with the government on productivity and an assessment of comparative market rates (based on a study, to be completed in June, which will be distorted by recession conditions).

The promised 3% superannuation rise is deferred and will be subject to further negotiations. The government has hinted that it is considering passing legislation to make superannuation compulsory for all employees.

Despite the rhetoric of ACTU officials, this supposed victory delivers far less than was originally promised by the Hawke government. Accord Mark VI was intended to cover September 1990 to September 1991, but the public service deal is extended to September 1992. Thus the final wage outcome will be spread over two years. In addition, the superannuation component has been excluded.

The PSU now faces the problem of having the deal included in the "paid rates" Public Service Award. Under the Industrial Relations Act, such awards cannot include over-award payments. On May 16 the IRC pointed out that it could strike out the award or fine the union for breaking it.

The new agreement proposes inserting the pay rise into the award "when practicable". But it allows either party to change the award to a "minimum rates" award or to seek to register the deal under Section 115 of the Industrial Relations Act, which allows for enterprise bargains.

While there was some rank-and-file dissatisfaction with the deal, the recession and official union attitudes ensured that it was ratified by the PSU membership.

To date the ACTU has negotiated what it passes off as Accord Mark VI deals on the waterfront, in the public service and the coal industry and with some big employers such as Kodak, ICI, Du Pont, John Fairfax and News Ltd (most of which had already gone far down the track of enterprise bargaining). Major employer bodies have condemned the latest agreement and vowed to fight similar deals in the private sector. n

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