NSW public servants are seeing an opportunity to overturn the long-running pay-rise cap on salaries as the Government gives rail workers a better offer.
Last night, the Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) was offered a deal, including a 3 per cent annual pay rise over three years, to take to their members to consider.
The RTBU’s memo to its members said the offer amounted to 4 per cent per year increase when benefits including travel passes and a $1,000 one-off sign-on bonus were taken into account.
This blows open a public service cap on pay rises at 2.5 per cent, which has been in effect since Barry O’Farrell was premier in 2011.
At the time there were mass protests with public service workers’ unions united in their opposition to the pay-rise cap.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the pay-rise deal with rail workers was not a break with Government policy, and rail workers would also have to give up some benefits if they agreed to the deal.
“I want to be clear really clear about this,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“The Government’s wages policy says you have 2.5 per cent, but if you have any class of employees that want more than that, they have to give things up, and that’s what’s happened in this case.”
The Premier also hinted job cuts were being considered.
A ‘welcome breakthrough’ for other sectors
NSW Teachers Federation president Maurie Mulheron said the offer was a “welcome breakthrough” for public sector workers.
“The public-sector wage cap has been repressive and has unfairly hit public sector workers across New South Wales, including teachers,” Mr Mulheron said.
He said public sector workers provide vital services and should not be bound by an “artificial” cap.
“It’s unfair and its discriminatory,” he said.
“Teachers and other essential workers right across this state deserve a salary increase.
“They are being priced out of the Sydney housing market and it has enormous implications for trying to recruit young people into teaching and it has to change.”
He said the Federation would push for changes ahead of the next state election.
“The salary wage cap should be removed and public sector unions should be given the opportunity to make a case out to both the employer and if necessary the Industrial Relations Commission to argue the value of their work, and the changing and improving value of their work,” he said.
Australian Paramedics Association NSW secretary Steve Pearce also said the offer was a win for people employed in the State Government sector.
“If taken up it’s a great victory for the train drivers, they face very similar issues that our paramedics do — forced overtime and there is just not enough of them,” he said.
Mr Pearce said paramedics, like train drivers and teachers, wanted to see the capped removed.
“If the NSW Government can see fit on one hand to break this legislative wage cap for a group of workers, then it’s quite galling for our members to look at the fact that they will be penny pinching,” he said.
“There should be an open and free ability to negotiate work value, and legislating a wage cap is certainly not in the spirit of that,” he said.