Public Service Association outraged at Government's pay freeze for workers

The Public Service Association (PSA) union is outraged the Government has announced a pay freeze for workers earning above $100,000.

Pay will be frozen for public service workers for the next three years, with increases to be targeted at lower-paid workers who are largely those earning below $60,000. These people account for about 25 percent of the public sector.

For those in between $60,000 and $100,000 it effectively means no pay rises too, which means cops, teachers, nurses, contact tracers, and border workers miss out.

Public Service Minister Chris Hipkins says it would "need to be exceptional" for those earning between this amount to get a pay rise.

PSA says this pay freeze is a slap in the face, given many of them are those who have worked hard to keep New Zealand safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Morrison Aldridge, who works for the Ministry of Social Development, was helping shovel billions and billions of dollars out the door during last year's lockdown.

"There was definitely a lot of money going out during that time with the wage subsidy," he tells Newshub.

He helped pay out wage subsidies, hardship grants, and COVID relief payments to help people get what they need. It was hard work.

"There was a lot of overtime, so six days a week, 13-hour days."

He's just one of the 400,000 strong public service workers that got New Zealand through the pandemic.

"We kept COVID-19 at bay. These are your hospital workers, people at our borders, people at testing labs, people that made wheels of justice turn each day," says PSA delegate Paula Davis.

"Making sure people got their wage subsidy and their welfare support was all due to public servants."

And the Government is grateful - they're saying thanks, at least.

"I'd like to thank the public service for their contribution during COVID-19," Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

Morris Aldridge.
Morris Aldridge. Photo credit: Newshub.

But in dollar terms, that thank you is worth zip. Instead of opening the chequebook for a token of appreciation, there was an executive order from the Government - a pay freeze for public servants.

"It is very important for us to show leadership and lead by example in the public service," Robertson says.

"Those who are the lowest paid are the priority."

Aldridge says the pay freeze is "pretty shit".

"We're gutted, we're angry," adds Davis.

PSA national secretary Erin Polaczuk is angered by the pay freeze.

"The public service has never had more expectation put on them, and not only is that expectation weighing on their shoulders but now they're being slapped in the face by being told that they're not going to get decent pay increases."

The pay freeze has to hurt that much more when private contractors are being called in to do the work of public servants and paid eye-watering sums - the cost of them has ballooned out to nearly a billion dollars a year.