More than 1000 staff, described as the ''Brazilian football team'' of the public service, have protested noisily across the country this morning.
Public Service Association members gathered in their hundreds in Wellington and Auckland, as well as in smaller numbers in other centres, in protest after pay negotiations with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment stalled.
The ministry claims to have offered a 2.1 per cent average increase, but the union says this is untrue and in fact only a 1 per cent increase on condition of a 1 per cent clawback on the progressive union salary scale had been offered.
Association national secretary Richard Wagstaff said if a net 2.1 per cent increase had been offered, it would have been accepted gladly and no strike would have been organised.
The ministry was claiming the 2.1 per cent offer by looking at the jump from trainee levels on the scale, but it was not an increase across the board.
Questions had been asked about the financial situation of the ministry and why it was not able to afford a bigger increase, but these had gone unanswered, he said.
It was hoped negotiations could continue following the strike, but if not members were prepared to take more serious action.
Ministry corporate services chief executive Peter Thomas said the organisation was disappointed by the strike action but would be happy to return to the negotiating table.
Hard work had been done over 12 rounds of collective bargaining and it believed its offer was fair, affordable and sustainable, he said.
Labour MP Grant Robertson, who was at the strike, said staff at the ''super ministry'' were the Brazilian football team of the public service.
''Just like the Brazilian football team, you should be paid for what you do, if you're the powerhouse of the public service you deserve to be paid.''
He was confident a fair pay rise would be provided to ministry staff if Labour won the election.
''These people aren't out here there marching saying 'give me a 10 per cent pay rise', they're just wanting to meet the rising cost of living.''
The ministry was formed in 2012 after the merger of the labour, building and housing departments, along with the ministries of science and innovation, and economic development. One of its areas of responsibility is employment disputes.
Staff approached by Fairfax Media declined to comment, saying they were barred from talking to the media by their employment contracts.
- The Dominion Post
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