13/05/2022 - 12:30

McGowan defends ‘generous’ pay rises

13/05/2022 - 12:30

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Union figureheads have decried the state government's public sector wages policy despite the premier insisting it will deliver wage growth in line with inflation.

McGowan defends ‘generous’ pay rises
Mark McGowan delivered his second budget as treasurer yesterday. Photo: David Henry

Union figureheads have decried the state government's public sector wages policy despite the premier insisting it will deliver wage growth in line with inflation.

Yesterday’s budget announcement revealed no fundamental change to the state government’s existing wages policy, which was changed during the mid-year review to allow for salary increases of whichever was greater between a 2.75 per cent or $1,000 increase per annum.

Premier Mark McGowan defended the lack of movement when asked, arguing his government’s policy would meet estimated CPI increases and would prove more generous than what Victoria’s state government is offering its public servants.

That’s despite ABS data indicating inflation of 7.6 per cent in WA in the year to March, as opposed to state treasury data which estimates CPI growth of between 2.5 and 2.75 per cent over the forward estimates.

Mr McGowan defended use of the latter figures on 6PR this morning, arguing external factors had significantly distorted data in the March quarter.

CPSUCSA secretary Rikki Hendon was unsympathetic, though, slamming treasury data as unrepresentative of the cost-of-living pressures facing workers.

“I’m concerned about the characterisation of [the ABS’s inflation figure] as a blip,” she said.

“There has been a growing CPI issue in Perth, a growing cost of living situation in Western Australia for some time, the previous quarter was also high.

“We’d want to examine that further.

“Our members’ experience is that cost of living is increasing now, it doesn’t appear to be going away, and the only thing I can say about those projections is they don’t reflect our members’ reality.”

Ms Hendon's criticisms follow on from a scathing assessment of yesterday's budget announcement courtesy of UnionsWA secretary Owen Whittle, who argued workers would be subject to real wage cuts if the state government stuck to maximum pay increases of 2.75 per cent.

“When public sector pay goes backwards, services go backwards,” he said.

“Vacancies can’t be filled; people leave their jobs skills and experience are lost.

“Rapidly rising costs of living mean that it is now urgent that the current policy be reviewed and improved."

Speaking to reporters this morning, Mr McGowan repeatedly referred to his government’s policy as ‘generous’ while pouring cold water on the possibility of industrial action.

“I just urge people to negotiate in good faith,” he said.

“The wages policy is more generous than other governments are offering, and it reflects the consumer price index.

“But for lower paid workers, it’s more generous than the projected consumer price index.”

While the premier's stance has drawn its share of opponents, state Liberal Party leader David Honey was decidedly not one of them, acknowledging to reporters this afternoon that there was a need for governments to be “prudent” with salaries.

He declined to comment directly on the matter and instead argued for the state government to have a stricter focus on providing cost-of-living relief to low-income earners.

Yesterday’s budget indicated there are 11 agreements under negotiation covering approximately a third of the public sector’s workforce.

Public sector salary costs are expected to hit $16.2 billion in FY2023 and grow to $17.5 billion over the forward estimates.

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