Unions score a win from Government in pay freeze spat

The Government's pay freeze has become a pay thaw. 

Following crisis meetings with unions there's been a partial backdown. The Government has reached an agreement with unions that they can negotiate pay increases to meet the cost of living for our public servants. 

Unions bowled up to the Beehive for a barney on Tuesday and came away with a backdown - of sorts. 

"There is no pay freeze; there is in fact scope to discuss cost of living increases," New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) president Richard Wagstaff told Newshub. 

"We feel like we were heard. We feel like this thing has gone back on course. It was going off course."

It sure was. Unions have been coming at the Government from every angle, furious about the pay restraint. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met them on Tuesday trying to smooth it all over. 

"We were very frank and open about the depth of feeling that our members have," New Zealand Public Service Association (PSA) National Secretary Kerry Davies told Newshub. 

The Prime Minister described the meetings as "constructive". 

The Government previously made blanket rulings - public servants on more than $100,000 wouldn't get any pay rises. Only those earning under $60,000 would be eligible for a bump. 

The middle - workers on between $60,000 and $100,000 - would have to prove exceptional circumstances to get an increase.

The Government has now told unions that workers can bargain for more money. 

But the Prime Minister stopped short of apologising for the distress caused to workers. 

"I absolutely acknowledge that despite it being contained within our pay guidance, we should have put more emphasis on the things that haven't necessarily been out there in the public domain," she said. 

The unions were not consulted before the freeze was announced last week and refused to accept it. 

Wagstaff said he didn't expect to have such a fight with a Labour Government. 

"We didn't expect it."

Ardern denies Labour is shirking its loyalty to workers. 

"No, in fact I'd push back very hard on any suggestion of that."

While there's no way the Government will ever admit fault here, there's no denying they caused unnecessary stress to public servants.

In a panic they've had to make changes on the fly, also now agreeing to review the three-year freeze next year.