Government appeals salary ruling

Rod Brown
Assistant General Secretary (Research and Industrial)

The Government continues to seek an avenue to avoid paying the full 2.5 per cent salary increase allowed under the NSW Government’s Wages Policy.

For teachers, the effect would be to discount the 2.5 per cent per annum to 2.27 per cent, 2 per cent and 2.15 per cent to offset the federal superannuation guarantee levy.

Most recently, the Government has appealed to the Supreme Court, sitting as the Court of Appeal, to review the June 25, 2013 full bench decision of the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) that ruled public sector workers were entitled to receive both a pay rise of 2.5 per cent as well as the Commonwealth mandated superannuation increase of 0.25 per cent.

In December Unions NSW sought an order consistent with the IRC’s June 2013 decision. Justice Boland made orders for the payment of the full 2.5 per cent salary increase allowed under the NSW Government’s Wages Policy. On January 30 the Government applied to the full bench of the IRC to stay Justice Boland’s orders. The IRC refused the Government’s request. In a separate step the full bench stayed any appeal proceedings by the Government against the IRC’s decision of June 2013 which provided for undiscounted salary increases of 2.5 per cent. This was to avoid the odd situation of the Government asking two separate courts, the NSW IRC and the Supreme Court, to deal with the same matters.

Both the unions and the Government have requested the Court of Appeal to expedite the hearing process. The matter is listed for a single day of hearing on March 14. It’s expected that the court will determine the matter promptly after it is heard.

Should the IRC’s decision prevail in the Supreme Court, not only will the increases be back-dated to the commencement of all state-based awards (for example schools, Corrective Services and AMES) as well as enterprise agreements (TAFE) it will also apply to those who have separated (for example retired) between the commencement of the new award/enterprise agreement and the finalisation of the legal proceedings. In this circumstance, members who have retired and are in the older superannuation schemes would have their exit salary varied and their retirement benefits adjusted as a result.

In a separate move the NSW Government re-issued the regulation modifying its wages policy in a further attempt to circumvent the decisions of the IRC. The regulation is almost identical to the one issued by the Government in July last year that was subsequently disallowed by the NSW Parliament last August. The legal status of a re-issued regulation that has already been disallowed by the Parliament is problematic. The ALP, Greens and Shooters and Fishers parties have confirmed that they will once again combine to disallow the new regulation when Parliament resumes on March 4. Should the parties combine as reported then the new regulation is doomed to fail.