Western Australia public sector unions to ask if they accept revised pay rise offer

WA’s 150,000 public sector employees will be asked this week by their union representatives if they will accept a revised offer of a 3% pay rise for each of the next two years, plus a one-time payment of $2,500.

It’s the second time in less than a year that the McGowan government has improved its state wage policy, but for workers earning more than $50,000 a year, it’s below the national inflation rate by 7 .4% for the June quarter.

An alliance of public sector unions, which had formed a united front to smash wage policy, is now threatening to fall apart as the one-off ‘cost of living’ payment could prove hard for low-income workers to resist .

The change would cost the state budget $634 million over four years and would see a worker with $50,000 receive an additional $4,000 in the first year (an 8% increase), while someone earning $150,000 would receive a salary increase of $7,000 (a 4.7% increase). ).

Workers such as teachers and doctors who had already subscribed to the existing arrangement – 2.75% per year – will automatically receive the difference, with the $2,500 expected to land in their bank accounts shortly.

The Public Sector Alliance will consider the offer, which Prime Minister Mark McGowan called “final policy”, at a meeting on Tuesday, before deciding whether to proceed with a coordinated strike in parliament on August 17.

UnionsWA secretary Owen Whittle said the alliance had “forced” the change, which would lead to a “significant” pay rise, particularly for low-wage staff.

“But for many public sector workers – police officers, firefighters, child protection workers, prison guards – they have been backing off for five years and this policy will ensure that they continue to back down,” he said.

“One-time cash payments do not replace real increases in basic wages for public sector workers.

The one-time cash payment will help workers cope with immediate cost-of-living pressures, but it will mean they will continue to fall in years to come.

“Cost of living pressures must be met day in and day out. One-time cash payments are just that: one-time cash payments. »

Camera iconOwen Whittle, Secretary of the UnionsWA. Credit: Danella Bevis/western australia

WA Prison Officers Union Secretary Andy Smith described the revised policy as ‘totally inadequate’ and ‘miles away’ from what was promised when they agreed to four years of salary increases capped at $1,000 for help repair the budget.

Rail, Tram and Bus Union secretary Josh Dekuyer said it was a ‘step in the right direction’, adding: ‘It’s just a question of whether or not this will be enough for the pain that people are going through and should be going through for the next 12 months.

The health services union, which had stepped up industrial action in recent weeks with a series of work stoppage meetings at hospitals, said the policy was “significantly better”, but still did not respond to his request.

CPSU/CSA Secretary Rikki Hendon said it remained to be seen whether the proposed increase would satisfy the workforce.

“That could be a significant improvement in the first year of this deal, when we look at the second year, because that $2500 top-up doesn’t apply to the second year, we’re concerned that the second year won’t keep up with the cost of life,” she said.

Australian Federation of Nurses outgoing secretary Mark Olson doubted the offer was enough to convince nurses and midwives not to congregate outside of hospitals as it did not address workload concerns .

“It’s the workloads that are crippling our public health system right now, it’s the workloads that are causing nurses and midwives to leave or reduce the number of shifts available or it will make them cry at the end of at the end of their shifts,” he said.

WA is the only government to offer a one-time payment of $2,500 across the public sector. By comparison, in New South Wales and Victoria, only healthcare workers will receive a $3,000 payment in recognition of their work during the pandemic.

However, WA’s policy is not as generous as that of Queensland, where public sector workers will receive 4% a year for two years, plus a top-up of up to 3% if inflation exceeds supply basic.

Union leaders were only told of the change on Saturday evening and it was announced by Mr McGowan at a surprise 8.30am press conference on Sunday, just days after the Labor caucus held its annual meeting in Karatha.

This policy strategy by proclamation by the prime minister, who is also the state treasurer, has frustrated unions who want the Labor government to engage in what they call ‘real bargaining’ for wages and salaries. terms.

Mr McGowan said his government had ‘listened’ to labor struggling with higher prices and rising mortgage repayments and that the policy was ‘rewarding people at a time when the cost of living was higher raised”.

He said it was hard to predict what would happen with inflation going forward, but it was expected to “moderate over time”. He also claimed that last year’s inflation rate was “artificially high” due to the $600 electricity credit announced at the end of 2020.

“Our (pay policy) is more generous than NSW and Victoria, probably South Australia and Tasmania,” Mr McGowan said.

“We didn’t want to adopt the Queensland model because it doesn’t allow us to budget properly because if you don’t know what you’re going to spend you can’t budget properly and that’s quite dangerous for the finances of the State.

The announcement came after the Sunday Times revealed that prisoners had received a 7.6% increase in payments they receive for working or studying in prison – well above the salary offer to guards .

Mr McGowan said the increase in inmate gratuities was between $1.74 and $5.56 a week, which he did not consider a “big deal”.

Shadow Treasurer Steve Thomas said it was inevitable the Prime Minister would give in to pressure from unions, renewing opposition calls for a freeze on household charges and government-controlled fees to provide relief to the statewide.

‘The Prime Minister could have been more generous to all West Australians, rather than just caving in to the unions who control the civil service,’ he said.

Michael A. Bynum