Once upon a time, public servants accepted lower rates of pay compared with their private sector counterparts in exchange for job security and generous superannuation conditions. It now seems there is no trade off and they actually receive higher rates of pay but still have job security and generous superannuation.
I was prompted to think of this because of something that Adam Creighton had written about the much lower rates of pay of UK civil servants and their disbelief about how generous are public sector rates of pay in Australia.
I also have in the back of my mind the absurdly generous parental leave provisions that apply to public school teachers in NSW – where leave is paid at the full-time rate even if the teacher has been working part-time and, wait for this, is paid at the full-time rate even if the teacher has not gone back to work and has another child!
I decided to take a look at the overall figures. Take full-time average weekly ordinary time earnings.
- Private sector – $1411 per week
- Public sector – $1539 per week
This is a gap of over 9 per cent.
Of course, there are lots of confounding variables in this comparison – different occupations, different qualifications, etc. But here’s another interesting finding – the gap for females (private v public) is much higher than for males.
I then decided to have a look at some of the federal public service agreements. Wow. It seems as though an EL 2 (which is below the senior executive service) can earn in excess of $150,000. And note that superannuation is paid at the rate of 15.4%.
I then had a look at the SES pay levels. In what can only be described as imaginative featherbedding and pay gouging, there are now three bands of SES and many departments have twice, sometimes three times, the number of SES staff that was once the case. No longer 2 Deputy Secretaries, many departments have several and now they come by all sorts of fancy names, such as Executive Director.
To my mind, this has been a rort by stealth, packaged up to give the impression of professional service by the public service. There has been no effective constraint to the explosion of the SES or the salaries they receive (see Julie Novak’s work on this).
Now my figures are a bit out-of-date, but take the total remuneration packages of the SES:
- SES 1 – $228,000
- SES2 - $287,000
- SES3 – $377,000
With the exception of a few private sector positions with little job security and some senior members of the professions, these figures are quite stratospheric.
What I want to know is how we got to this point. (It is not too different for state public servants. ) I guess weak governments, Labor governments and the ability of the public servants and the unions to pull the wool of the eyes of those ostensibly in charge. And without paying customers, it is relatively easy to make a (dubious) case that the ‘market’ dictates these rates of pay for hard-working public servants.