Public sector keeps lid on capital pay rises

Pay increases for Wellington workers lagged behind every other region this year, as the cost-conscious public service kept a tight fist on its purse-strings.

That's according to Mercer New Zealand's latest Total Remuneration Survey, which showed the average wage packet in Wellington rose 2.8 per cent over the past 12 months.

At that level it lagged behind pay increases in Auckland, Christchurch and rural New Zealand, which had average pay rises of 3 per cent, 5.8 per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively.

Sarah Barnaby, a senior associate at Mercer New Zealand's consulting firm's talent business, said a key reason behind the differences was the fact the public sector made up a significant portion of the capital's workforce.

"It's not so much that the public sector has downsized but the emphasis has been on restraint and conservatism, and having budgets that are sustainable," she said. "It's meant pay movements in the sector are not tracking with other parts of the country."

The other factor was the economy, with uncertainty keeping gains in pay packets to a national average of 3.2 per cent compared with a year ago. Barnaby said the global financial crisis had pretty much ended the days of an automatic 5 per cent increase that many people in the workforce had come to expect before 2008.

But the headline figure masked a high level of variability in pay rises by vocation.

Barnaby said employers were willing to pay significantly more for talent, with project engineers commanding a 9 per cent increase in pay on average, while the salaries of those in repair and maintenance jobs rose an average 6.8 per cent.

That was largely due to the earthquake rebuilding in Christchurch picking up pace.

The Dominion Post