Tele: NSW public sector wage freeze at odds with CFMEU bargaining agreement

A comparison of pay rates across different public sector professions and builders shows a significant disparity.

Frontline public servants in NSW like teachers, nurses, and prison officers will only get a 0.3 per cent pay increase this year, at a time when the CFMEU is lobbying for builders to adopt an enterprise bargaining agreement that will lock in pay rises and fortnightly public holidays.

The Industrial Relations Commission from October to effectively freeze public sector wages amid the COVID pandemic is at odds with a CFMEU bargaining agreement that would increase pay for tradies working on the state’s construction-led COVID recovery.

A comparison of pay rates across different professions shows that while a Labourer under CFMEU agreements took home about $2,200 per week for a 56 hour week (as at March 2019), the before-tax pay for a 5th year Registered Nurse is only $1,507.

The gross starting salary for an entry-level police officer is $73,609, according to NSW Police recruitment site.

How public service wages compare

NURSES

■ Gross weekly pay for 5th year registered nurse: $1507. 

■ Four weeks annual leave. 

POLICE

■ Starting salary of $73,609 per year ($1415.55 per week). 

■ Six weeks annual leave.

Teachers

■ Gross annual salary for graduate teacher of $72,263 per year ($1389.67 per week). 

■ Four weeks annual leave to be taken in school holidays.

Childcare workers

■ Minimum wage for entry-level children’s services employee: $771 per week. 

■ Four weeks annual leave and ordinary public holidays.

That’s a little more than the total annual salary for a graduate teacher – $72,263 from January 2021.

The NSW government moved to freeze public sector wages this year, causing a backlash from frontline workers and unions who declared the wage freeze a “slap in the face” amid the COVID pandemic.

Future pay increases will be capped at 1.5 per cent each year, while the CFMEU’s newest enterprise bargaining agreement would see workers get a five per cent annual pay rise.

Entitlements for public servants across the state are broadly comparable, but police officers and teachers are eligible for more leave than other professions.

A police officer is entitled to six weeks annual leave, while teachers get four weeks annual leave and are not required to attend the workplace during school holidays.

Both professions are also eligible for 15 sick days each year.

CFMEU workers under the previous EBA are entitled to 10 sick days and four weeks leave plus 13 rostered days off. The new agreement would increase rostered days off to 26.

In arguing against the nine-day fortnight calendar for CFMEU tradies, Treasurer Dominic Perrottet has said the extra days off would slow down construction which would hit taxpayers if government projects are impacted.

Master Builders Australia has also expressed concerns that the union has pressured some contractors to sign on to the new agreement.

A spokesman for the Australian Building and Construction Commission said the ABCC is “aware of claims of possible CFMMEU coercion directed towards subcontractors to sign up to the union‘s enterprise agreement”.

The spokesman for the building watchdog said the claims are currently being investigated.

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