Court of Appeal upholds government wages policy

Rod Brown
Assistant General Secretary (Research and Industrial)

The NSW Government looks set to discount public sector salaries by increases in the Commonwealth’s superannuation guarantee levy following a unanimous decision of the Supreme Court, sitting as the Court of Appeal on May 6.

For teachers the effect is to discount the 2.5 per cent per annum salary increase allowed under the NSW Government’s wages policy to 2.27 per cent, 2 per cent and 2.15 per cent over the life of the current award.

The Government appealed to the Supreme Court 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.

The Supreme Court’s consideration was necessarily limited to the interpretation of the application of the law, not on the merits of that law.

The court has referred the matter back to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to determine “in accordance with the law”. While the matter does go back to the IRC, the IRC is constrained by the Supreme Court’s decision effectively limiting the IRC to grant salary and wage increases that have been discounted by increases in the superannuation guarantee.

The decision highlights the extraordinarily rigid nature of the Baird Government’s wage-fixing legislation.