Costa says you’re only worth 2.5%

NSW Treasurer Michael Costa flagged the State Government’s policy for public sector wages agreements in the June 2007 budget papers:

‘… while above-inflation increases were necessary in the past to attract and retain staff in key front-line areas, the balance has been redressed. The Government’s wages policy is to maintain those real wage improvements. Therefore, future wage increases will be limited to a net cost of 2.5% per annum, with any additional increases tied to negotiated productivity savings.’

The policy was reinforced three months later: ‘Additional increases [over 2.5% per year] are available where employee-related cost savings are achieved.’ (Premier’s Memorandum, 11 September 2007)

And again: ‘Increases in employee-related expenses of more than 2.5% [per year] must be funded through employee-related reform measures and other cost savings. Such measures would generally involve direct changes to award/agreement provisions, legislation and could relate to staffing levels, human resource policies, rostering arrangements, workforce composition, work intensity or job redesign that leads to savings.’ (NSW Government Wages Policy, p.5)

The government’s suggestions for employee-related ‘reform’ are:

  • Reducing overtime by 5% by 2008;
  • RDOs not to be excessively accumulated or used as a substitute for recreation leave;
  • Redesign jobs to allow some of the work to be undertaken by less-qualified staff who are easier to attract;
  • Remove barriers to part-time or casual staff;
  • Avoid accrual of excessive levels of leave. (Wages Policy, Appendix A)

NSWNA members have told us in focus groups they are outraged by these proposals and NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes has passed members’ views to the government.

‘We will not accept a bean counting approach in 2008 when nurses are already dealing with up to 10% increased demand for acute sector services,’ he said.