The standoff between public sector unions and the McGowan Labor government is set to escalate after unions decided to continue their campaign for better pay in a rejection of the government’s latest wage offer.
- The WA government has offered a 3 per cent pay rise this year and next
- Unions say this does not offset rises in inflation and cost of living
- They want a wage rise of at least 5 per cent a year
They described the latest offer as inadequate and said it did not offset inflation, declaring they would go ahead with a mass rally outside state parliament on August 17.
Unions WA Secretary Owen Whittle warned the government it had “entrenched industrial strife through the rest of their term of government.”
A joint meeting of public sector unions representing police, firefighters, prison officers, teachers, child protection, health and other public sector workers decided to press on for a “fair pay” deal for the public sector workforce.
Mr Whittle said the government’s revised offer was an acknowledgment the workers deserved a pay rise but it was not good enough, as interest rates and cost of living soared.
Unions want at least 5 per cent a year
The McGowan government has offered a three per cent increase in salaries this year and next, plus a $2,500 one-off payment. The unions wanted the government to come to the table with an offer of at least five per cent a year.
“The three per cent is a low wage offer in the current economic environment, it doesn’t recognize the hard work of the public sector through the pandemic and doesn’t recognize the extremely high cost of living pressures that workers are currently facing,” Mr Whittle said.
“The new policy does not adequately offset inflation over the two years it covers.
“Further, it comes off the back of pay going backwards in real terms for most over the past five years.”
The government upped its pay offer to public sector employees on Sunday following the ongoing campaign by unions and in acknowledgment of rising cost of living pressures.
Premier Mark McGowan said the $2,500 payment was to reflect current pressures, which he expected to ease over the next year.
Perth currently tops all capital cities with a whopping 7.4 per cent inflation rate.
Unions also said the one-off bonus was just that, a one-off, and would be gone in a year. What was needed instead, the union argued, was a further percentage increase to base salaries.
Mr Whittle today granted the revised offer may be approved by some groups of union members “as the one-off payment does deliver benefits to low wage public sector workers”.
But for others, he said, real wage cuts will continue in the second year of the agreement.
“There is a serious problem in the second year when the one-off payment that is not on the base wage is long gone and the three per cent rise fails to keep pace with inflation.”