Unions welcome new WA government pay offer

·2-min read

Western Australia's Labor government has been forced to again lift its public sector pay offer after health workers threatened further industrial action.

Workers who earn less than $104,000 would receive an additional $3120 in each of the next two years, as well as an immediate $3000 bonus payment.

The offer represents an increase of between three and six per cent for those workers.

Public sector workers on more than $104,000 would also receive the bonus in addition to a three per cent increase across each year.

In a statement on Wednesday, Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston said the government was hopeful of securing agreements with more unions in coming weeks.

"We continue to listen and negotiate with unions in good faith to deliver a generous and fair offer, one that is reasonable and affordable, but particularly delivers for our lowest paid workers, which has always been a priority for the McGowan government," he said.

The United Workers Union welcomed the offer, saying it would provide "relief and certainty" for workers.

The CPSU/CSA, which represents childcare workers among others, was more circumspect, noting the government's position had improved significantly under union pressure.

"Whether the shift is good enough is a matter for our membership to consider carefully, and they will be able to have their say in the coming days," secretary Rikki Hendon said.

"We continue to be frustrated by the government's process. We want a return to genuine bargaining, not the continual updating of wages policy to set new wage caps."

Unions WA secretary Owen Whittle said the improved offer was welcome but the process that led to it was "severely flawed".

WA's Labor government had initially offered a 2.75 per cent increase but in July raised the offer to three, along with an additional $2500 sign-on bonus.

That offer was rejected this week by the Health Services Union and United Workers Union, who form part of a public sector alliance which has sought a five per cent increase to combat rising inflation and cost of living pressures.

Thousands of public sector workers rallied outside parliament last month in an escalation of the stand-off.

Health Services Union WA secretary Naomi McCrae earlier this week accused the government, which delivered a $5.7 billion surplus this year, of being fixated on the budget bottom line.

She said the previous offer failed to address staff retention or job insecurity amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There's just a huge level of fatigue, a huge level of disengagement as people feel like there's no light at the end of the tunnel," she said.

"The government has underestimated quite how angry people are."

Opposition treasury spokesman Steve Thomas said the government had been dragged to a "belated and begrudging" acceptance that their previous pay offers were inadequate.

The Australian Nurses Federation indicated it would proceed with a mass gathering of members in Perth on October 12.