Public sector pay stoush set to escalate after Perth cost of living soars

An escalation in the pay fight between public sector unions and the Labor state government looms after inflation figures confirmed the cost of living in Perth was outpacing every other capital city.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported on Monday that inflation in Perth rose 7.4 per cent for the June quarter compared to the same quarter last year, driven by higher housing costs and fuel increases.

A union stop work meeting earlier this month.Credit:Health Services Union WA/Facebook

The consumer price index has come down slightly from last quarter’s figure of 7.6 per cent, but Perth and Brisbane were the only capital cities to post an increase with a seven in front of it.

Several public sector unions are deadlocked in a pay dispute with the McGowan government, which has not budged on its 2.5 per cent annual pay rise offered late last year.

UnionsWA secretary Owen Whittle flagged public sector unions would ramp up their fight for pay increases above the 5 per cent increase already being sought.

He said the government’s offer was not feasible given Perth’s high inflation rates and unions would likely now head to the bargaining table asking for a rise of more than 5 per cent.

“We’re seeing real pay cuts across the public sector and as inflation continues to rise the government sticking with the arbitrary low wages policy is meaning that public sector workers are seeing their real wages disappear,” he said.

“It’s worth noting that when we went to bargain with government with 4 or 5 per cent pay increases that was well before we were seeing two rounds of inflation up above 7 per cent.

“It’s likely that unions are looking to looking for increase as well above 5 per cent now.”

Negotiations have stalled to the point where the Health Services Union of WA and United Workers Union held two stop work meetings outside Perth Hospitals, with both unions describing the pay offer as “vastly inadequate”.

Whittle said the government could afford the increases and warned the public sector could be increasingly affected by staff losses, citing the loss of 30 train drivers in the Public Transport Authority to the mining sector since January.

“They’re rolling in surpluses; they’ve had record surpluses year after year, this government can certainly afford it,” he said.

“I think the loss of those train drivers is actually really concerning, especially when the state government’s looking to open up new rail lines.

“Now they’re losing drivers at a time when they can least afford it.”

Premier Mark McGowan has previously said his government was negotiating in good faith with the unions but had not considered changing the pay officer, which includes an extra 0.25 per cent pay increase for productivity improvements.

WA’s inflation rate also outstripped the record-breaking national rate of 6.1 per cent, which Treasurer Jim Chalmers described as “not surprising, but still a confronting outcome”.

There were signs Perth’s cost of living increases were slowing, however, with the change in CPI dropping to 1.7 per cent when compared to the March quarter, while Brisbane Adelaide and Darwin all recorded 2.1 per cent increases.

Construction costs had resulted in a 4.8 per cent increase to new house purchases while fuel price increases jumped 3.4 per cent since March.

Market Economics independent economist Stephen Koukoulas told Radio 6PR said price increases occurred in every area of household spending, predicting the Reserve Bank would increase the cash rate by 0.5 per cent next week.

“It’s still a high number, even though it was a little bit below what financial markets are anticipating we’ve still got a problem with inflation, that’s more than double the top end of the Reserve Bank’s target,” he said.

“The bottom line is that we get to see more interest rate hikes from our friends at the Reserve Bank.”

Follow WAtoday on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter for handpicked selections of the day’s biggest local, national and international news.

Most Viewed in National

From our partners

Source: Read Full Article