What does APS wage suppression point toward?

Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) Governor Philip Lowe has pointed out that “caps on wages growth in public sectors right across the country are another factor contributing to the subdued wage outcomes.” 
Whilst subdued wages are an ongoing issue for Australia’s public servants, this revelation from Mr Lowe highlights a persistent issue for the nation’s public servants.

The artificial caps on wages and staff 
Most States/Territories have capped wage increases for public servants between 2-2.5% since the first cap was first introduced by the NSW Government in 2011.

Since then, the Australian Public Service has faced several challenges stemming from this initial restriction. Public servants are now under increased pressure to deliver while staffing numbers have been cut, funding has been slashed and the voices of experts have been ignored. 

“The onus is on the Federal Government to set a precedent and remove the wage cap. Many of our members are telling us that pay is simply not keeping up, and the only solution is to either deal with the status quo or accept offers from the private sector that pay more,” said Dale Beasley, Director, Professionals Australia ACT Branch.

Unfortunately, the Morrison Government is adamant to continue it’s ‘business as usual’ approach and let the wages of their public servants stagnante. 

“If the Federal Government increased or removed its 2% wage cap, we believe the States/Territories will follow suit and raise their respective wage caps,” said Mr Beasley.

Restrictions on bargaining
To make matters worse, the Coalition continues to squeeze the ability of public servants to negotiate for better wages and conditions. 

“In July, our members at the Civil Aviation Safety Authority were offered a 2% annual wage increase via a workplace determination, rather than by renegotiating their enterprise agreement,”

“The evidence is for all to see, if technical professionals aren’t allowed to negotiate for improved wages and conditions, the APS risks losing their technical expertise to the private sector,” said Mr Beasley.

It appears the Government, who are pushing its union busting bill , is adamant to ignore the voices of technical professionals.

The Coalition must stop politicising technical advice and expertise and allow public servants a voice in bargaining on their wages, but also on their conditions to facilitate frank and fearless advice, for the good of all Australians. 

What next?
Professionals Australia has been calling on the Government to scrap its artificial caps on wages and staff numbers for years, and we'll continue to strongly advocate for our members. 

“We need to improve technical capacity in the public sector and that starts with; cadet-ships, graduate development, proper career paths and continuous professional development so that we can better attract and retain talent,” said Mr Beasley.

Despite the mounting pressure on the Government, the Prime Minister has again doubled down in an address to public servants this week, telling the APS that it must find new and innovative ways of delivering within the current context and not asking for more, because "Matthias will say no."

The Prime Minister claims to have a vision for the APS workforce, but how are public servants supposed to deliver when overarching Government policy prevents them from offering competitive employment conditions and salaries to attract and retain the professional staff they need? 

The Government needs to enable rather than erode the technical capability of the APS.

We will use the opportunities available to us through local and national consultative committees to have discussions at the agency level on what we can do to improve career paths and development in the current context. We’ll also be continuing to advocate politically to call for the Govt to remove its artificial barriers,” said Mr Beasley.