The Federal Government has announced a public sector wage freeze – by deferring all salary increases for six months – as part of the response to the coronavirus outbreak.
For the next twelve-month period all scheduled general pay increases for Australian Public Service (APS) employees will be delayed for six months. The wage freeze will also apply to the wider federal public sector, including CSIRO staff.
“The decision by the Federal Government to impose a six-month wage freeze is very disappointing, especially recognising the recent work CSIRO staff have contributed to the summer bushfires and coronavirus crisis response,” said CSIRO Staff Association Sam Popovski Sam Popovski.
“Salary increases at CSIRO had already been suppressed – to 1 per cent per annum since 2014 – through the imposition of the Government’s bargaining policies.”
In announcing the wage freeze, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ben Morton said that “it’s important the (public sector) helps share the economic burden.”
The bargaining process at CSIRO will continue however the updated bargaining policy – including the mandatory six-month deferment of annual pay increase – would apply to a new enterprise agreement.
For example, under the new bargaining policy a new CSIRO enterprise agreement commencing in November 2020 would see the first pay increase deferred for a six-month period until May 2021.
Incremental salary progression through the Annual Performance Agreement (APA) process is not affected by the policy.
“We are very disappointed that we are not in a position to provide a pay rise in November, as we’ve all been working so hard with bargaining representatives to achieve this. However, the circumstances are beyond our control, and a reflection of the extraordinary times that we are,” CSIRO Executive Director Karen Paroz said.
“We recognise this development may result in mixed feelings, ranging from shock and frustration, through to acceptance and relief that this is not an indefinite arrangement.”
“This change does not impact on scheduled performance and development step progression, merit promotion, cash and non-cash rewards and does not affect increases to expense related allowances linked to economic indicators.”
Staff Association position
“The Staff Association is disappointed in the decision of the Government, including in recognition of the critical work that CSIRO staff are doing in responding to the coronavirus crisis, the Australian bushfires and many other areas of national importance,” Mr Popovski said.
“The CSIRO workforce has experienced effective wage constraint for several years, with salaries increasing by an average of 1% per annum since 2014. In current times, we expect CSIRO’s leadership to equally demonstrate constraint on salaries and bonuses.”
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) denounced the announcement to freeze wages and called on the Government to reverse the decision.
“There is no doubt that our members are working longer and harder than ever before, to try to meet this unprecedented surge in demand for government services. That is why it is so very disappointing that the Morrison Government’s response to COVID-19 is to freeze the wages of public sector workers who are holding our community together,” CPSU Secretary Melissa Donnelly said.
“There are no winners in this decision, workers getting less means they will spend less in their struggling local businesses. It just doesn’t make economic sense.”
Further discussions will occur between the Staff Association and CSIRO management in coming days.
These discussions will enable further information to be provided to members on this Government decision and the continued progress of an Enterprise Agreement proposal following the Easter break.