24 Dec 2010

Pay rises for judges, MPs 'rub salt into wound'

4:23 pm on 24 December 2010

Newly announced pay rises for judges and MPs rub salt into the wound for workers, and show a double standard applies, says the head of one of the country's biggest unions.

The Remuneration Authority has awarded judges pay rises ranging between 3.7% and 4.3%, and MPs a rise of 1.4%.

The national secretary of the Public Service Association, Richard Wagstaff, says the rises for judges are lavish and dwarf those of court staff who fought for years to get a 2% rise.

Mr Wagstaff says judges are already paid many times what staff are getting, and have also benefited more than most from the October tax cuts, "so that's really a double whammy for them".

He also says there's a double standard with backdating pay rises, because the State Services Commission refuses to allow it in general wage negotiations - yet it has happened for judges and MPs.

Key 'urged restraint'

Prime Minister John Key says he urged the Remuneration Authority to show restraint when setting MPs' wages, given the current economic conditions.

As well as the 1.4% pay increase, which lifts backbench salaries from $131,000 to $134,800, MPs are getting $2000 each to help reimburse them for the international travel discount, which will be scrapped next year.

The increase, which matches the average wage increase throughout the country, is backdated to 1 July 2010.

Mr Key says he argued for a pay freeze or, if there was to be a rise, for it to match other public-sector wage settlements.

Politicians did not get a pay rise last year.

The salary of the Chief Justice, Dame Sian Elias, goes up by $16,000 to $453,000.

High Court judges will now earn $366,500 annually, a 3.7% rise, while a 4.3% increase for district court judges takes them to $276,000.

The Remuneration Authority describes the increases as modest.