The ABC is being pressured by the Federal Government to ask staff to forgo for six months a 2 per cent pay rise which was due to come into effect in October.
In an email to staff last night, managing director David Anderson said Communications Minister Paul Fletcher had proposed that ABC employees accept the wage rise pause.
This request was in line with an earlier letter from the Australian Public Service Commissioner to all agencies advising that the government had imposed a six month pause on wage increases for all members of the Public Service due to COVID-19, Anderson said.
He pointed out the ABC does not have the ability to unilaterally alter the working conditions of its employees.
But the ABC Act requires the broadcaster to “give consideration to any policy proposed by the Minister in relation to the administration of the ABC.”
“I don’t believe this proposal in anyway reflects negatively on the hard work of all of you during this period, or during the bushfires last summer, and the contribution the ABC continues to make to the community every day,” Anderson said, adding he would provide an update after further consideration of Fletcher’s request.
MEAA CEO Paul Murphy responded angrily to Fletcher’s move, stating: “This is another shot in the culture wars by a government that has an ideological obsession with attacking the ABC at any opportunity.
“These pay increases were negotiated almost 12 months ago and have been budgeted for. If there is to be any variation of the enterprise agreement, it’s a matter for staff and their union representatives and ABC management to discuss, not something for the government to dictate to the ABC.
“Over recent months, the ABC has shown time and time again that it is an essential service and its journalists, camera operators and all other news staff have been doing an incredible job keeping Australians informed during a traumatic period in our history.”
The MD revealed the ABC had decided in April not to pay bonuses to senior executives or any salary at-risk payments this financial year.
Anderson himself declined a 2 per cent increase that would have been due in July following a remuneration tribunal determination and he asked for his salary to be reduced by 5 per cent from April until the end of September.
The resulting savings and other cuts to expenditure this financial year have contributed to content initiatives during the pandemic.
In 2018-2019 Anderson was paid $1.14 million, including a base salary of $799,000, $73,000 in superannuation and $266,000 for long service leave.
Fletcher’s letter to the ABC asserted a six-month wage pause would not only be consistent with the practice being applied across government agencies, it would be a “highly appropriate gesture of solidarity” with journalists in commercial media, according to The Guardian.
His missive said the government expects ABC management to explore “all options” to deliver the six-month freeze in line with other agencies.
Anderson has warned of cuts to jobs and services due to the three-year $84 million funding freeze imposed by the government.
Last month he told staff he would update them by the end of July on the ABC’s response to the indexation pause and the delayed announcement of its five-year strategy plan.