Your three main Defence unions, CPSU, AMWU and PA are united in condemning the unfair ADF pay deal which provides for pay increases of only 1.5% per annum and cuts leave. Union members in the civilian Defence workforce stand in solidarity with our Australian Defence Force colleagues. This unfair deal constitutes a real wage cut and an attack on working rights that no employee should be forced to take. Union members in the Department of Defence and their military colleagues are facing the same harsh Government agenda when it comes to public sector pay and conditions.
Should we be mindful of the budget?
The “budget crisis” and the rationale behind cutting wages in the public sector are based on false premises.
1. Cutting the public sector doesn’t work. Austerity measures in the form of cutting funding from public
services and jobs has not assisted comparable countries like the United Kingdom in improving the
economy. Similarly, the US is now looking to grow investment in public services rather than cut funding.
Australia’s economy is in much better shape than most other OECD countries and our debt levels are
minimal by comparison.
2. Public sector wages are reasonable. Parliamentary wages have far outstripped the ADF or their
civilian colleagues – see graph opposite. Since 1991, the base pay of a federal parliamentarian has grown
by around 240 per cent, whereas Defence members’ salaries have only grown by about 110 per cent.
3. The APS is highly efficient and not bloated. In comparison to other OECD countries, Australia not
only has low rates of taxation, but highly effective provision of government services.
International comparisons also demonstrate that the public sector workforce is not bloated or causing
undue stress on the federal budget. The size of the general government sector in Australia is on par with
other OECD nations and the Commonwealth public sector workforce only accounts for 7% of total
Commonwealth Government expenditure. To the extent that the Commonwealth public sector workforce
has grown, this has been proportional with growth in GDP and has been significantly outstripped by
Bargaining in more than 70 Commonwealth agencies covering 165,000 staff is currently underway, but to date not one employer has been able to put forward an acceptable deal to a staff vote. Unlike the military, civilians can join their unions and fight this attack on working conditions. Unfortunately their ADF colleagues are being forced to cop cuts with no room for negotiation. It’s time the Abbott Government reconsiders its approach to “bargaining” in the ADF and the public sector more broadly, and negotiates a fair deal that protects conditions and – at a minimum – keeps wages in line with inflation.