Analysis of 103 different government-sector wage deals has revealed the massive disparity in pay between employees in the same classification band but different departments.

Some public servants are paid tens of thousands more than colleagues in other agencies, while others would face a significant pay cut if they accepted a promotion to a different department. Critics have said there should be a push to end to disparity across departments and that the classification system may in fact be redundant. Reports also say the large gaps between agencies are preventing public servants from gaining experience in different departments.

The most common public service classification in Canberra is Executive Level 1. In that band; entry-level pay ranges from $89,796 (the Australian National Maritime Museum) to $115,751 (the Australian Office of Financial Management) – a very considerable difference of $25,955.

The gap in maximum salaries on the EL1 level is staggering, with officers earning to $47,658 a year more than staff on the same level of a different governmental branch.

Even at the lowest level of public service the gap is significant; APS1 base pay can differ by as much as $12,648 a year – about a third of an APS1 officers' entire salary.

Public Service Commissioner Stephen Sedgwick has told Fairfax journalists it is important to give agency heads some flexibility to negotiate their own arrangements: “None of us want to go back to a world that is so rigid that an agency can't pursue the agenda that it needs to pursue in order to achieve its objectives... The government, in the last bargaining round, informed partly by the [Ahead of the Game] blueprint, had formed the view that we'd gone too far, that the pay disparities ostensibly for the same kind of work were too large,” Mr Sedgwick said.

The Community and Public Sector Union has indicated centralising pay negotiations could prevent wage disparities, but their main focus is protecting public sector jobs.

“Our policy position is not to have a single agreement, it hasn't been for years. Our policy position is that we want central negotiations with government on service-wide issues and their service-wide position and then you resolve the rest with each individual agency,” said CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood, “reducing pay gaps is an important issue but the issues that are keeping public servants awake at night are job security and... conditions if there is a change of government.”