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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 2644..


MR DE DOMENICO: I thank Mr Kaine for his question. The answer is yes, the Government is saying that if parties can settle the key components of a new enterprise bargaining agreement before Christmas we will be prepared to agree to a pre-Christmas pay rise of one per cent or, on the average, of $7 per week per public servant. Mr Speaker, this offer would represent the first instalment of the 3.9 per cent increase offered by the Government over the next 21/2 years. In essence, what the Government is offering is an early date from which pay rises could commence under the new enterprise bargaining arrangements that are currently under negotiation with the unions.

This pay increase is already accounted for and, despite reports from the unions, has nothing to do with productivity savings. It is up front, no strings attached. Consistent with the current and previous agreements negotiated by the Labor Government, and in particular given our current financial and budgetary situation, the totality of any wage increase would not be budget funded. This approach is, I repeat, entirely consistent with the present system of wage negotiation in the ACT government sector and in other public and private industry sectors, including the Federal Labor Party's way of negotiating things federally; that is, pay increases are linked to improvements in the productive performance of different enterprises and, in this case, agencies.

Mr Speaker, in this regard the Government put a substantial reform agenda to the unions last week as the basis for continuing to advance the negotiation process. The outcome of negotiations over the next few weeks on agency-specific reforms will be important in the settlement of new arrangements. Mr Speaker, it will be particularly important in trying to reach agreement on the overall wage increase that can be sustained. I wish to emphasise again that the Government's approach does not - I emphasise "does not" - limit the overall wage increases that might be negotiated on an agency level. The Government's proposal was offered in good faith, and it is advantageous to employees. If the unions choose to reject what the Government is offering on this score, then the alternative approach is that the first pay instalment should apply at some time after the new agreement is certified by the Industrial Relations Commission.

So far, Mr Speaker, the Government has put the reform agenda and some actual pay on the table - and the unions are still talking about industrial action. Unfortunately, the unions seem intent on pursuing what can only be described as a political campaign inspired by the fact that, quite obviously, the ACT ALP is not up to the job. Mr Speaker, the unions have already wiped out the umpire and, unfortunately for their members, they seem unwilling to accept this offer for what it is - an offer which is up front and, I repeat, part of the 3.9 per cent increase offered by the Government over the next 21/2 years. Mr Speaker, as I have said before, the Government and agencies have been ready for quite some time and are very keen to pursue detailed negotiations on the agency reform agenda. We hope to finalise the framework arrangements before Christmas. The unions will only be hurting their members if they continue on their politically driven warpath.

MR KAINE: I ask a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. Thank you, Mr De Domenico. I notice in the same article that the Opposition industrial relations spokesman, Mr Wayne Berry, with his usual knee-jerk reaction, made a comment about this action being down "that right-wing, Kennett-like industrial-relations path".


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