WA unions warn of more union action as they reject McGowan government’s latest wage offer

The standoff between public sector unions and the McGowan Labor government is set to escalate after unions decided to continue their campaign for better wages in a rejection of the government’s latest wage offer.

They described the latest offer as inadequate and said it did not offset inflation, declaring that they would proceed with a mass meeting outside the state parliament on August 17.

Unions WA Secretary Owen Whittle warned the government it had “anchored the industrial struggle for the remainder of their reign”.

A joint meeting of public sector unions representing police, firefighters, prison guards, teachers, child protection services, health professionals and other public sector workers decided to push for a “fair wage” deal for public sector personnel.

The police are among the workers represented by the unions fighting for a better deal.(ABC News: Kenith Png)

Whittle said the government’s revised offer was an acknowledgment that the workers deserved a raise, but it wasn’t good enough as interest rates and the cost of living rose.

Unions want at least 5 percent a year

The McGowan government has offered a three percent salary increase this year and next, plus a one-time payment of $2,500. The unions wanted the government to come to the table with an offer of at least five percent per year.

“The three percent 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 it doesn’t recognize the extremely high cost of living that workers are currently facing,” said Mr Whittle.

Unions WA Secretary Owen Whittle speaks with journalists.
Owen Whittle says the offer won’t offset the skyrocketing cost of living. (ABC News: Tabarak Al Jrood)

“The new policy does not sufficiently compensate for inflation during the two years it covers.

“In addition, it comes from wages declining in real terms over the past five years.”

The government on Sunday increased its wage offer to public sector workers following the ongoing campaign by unions and in recognition of the rising cost of living.

Prime Minister Mark McGowan said the $2,500 payment reflected current pressures, which he expected to ease in the coming year.

WA Prime Minister Mark McGowan speaks at a media conference wearing a suit and tie.
Mark McGowan says the payment would help workers cope with the “temporary” inflation spike.(ABC News: Keane Bourke)

Perth currently tops all capital cities with inflation at a staggering 7.4 percent.

Unions also said the one-time bonus was just that, a one-off, and would be gone within a year. What was needed instead, the union argued, was a further percentage increase in base salaries.

Whittle admitted today that the revised offer could be approved by some groups of union members “because the one-time payment benefits low-wage public sector workers”.

But for others, he said, real wage cuts will continue into 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 percent increase does not keep pace with inflation.”

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