PSA wants freeze on job cuts

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 13:57 11/02/2013

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A freeze on public sector cuts should be put in place until the Government tests its ‘‘heroic’’ savings targets, the Public Sector Association says, amid warnings of a legal challenge to new legislation.

The Beehive dismissed the call as ‘‘predictable’’ saying the public’s perception of its services were improving.

In its submission on the State Sector and Public Finance Reform Bill, the PSA said a moratorium should be put on department restructuring, and the cap on public servants lifted, until a review of the impact of cutbacks takes place.

National secretary Brenda Pilott said that since 2009 the sector had been mired in restructuring, with 3000 job cuts and 3500 unfilled vacancies, hitting morale.

However, little had been done to assess whether the cuts made sense.

‘‘Typically the assessment of the financial benefits of the savings are heroic, and we think they are seldom achieved, but very seldom does anyone go back to see,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s time to hit the pause button and take stock.’’

Restructuring hit productivity as staff competed with colleagues for jobs, leaving both the winners and losers feeling sore, Ms Pilott said.

The cuts also came at a high financial cost. Figures from the State Services Commission showed that the Government spent almost $80 million on redundancy payouts in the two years to June 30, 2012.

‘‘It’s a huge amount of money to essentially tell people to go away,’’ Ms Pilott said.

The PSA also warned the proposed legislation for state sector reform would leave the Government open to legal challenge.

As it is currently drafted, the State Sector and Public Finance Reform Bill would deny redundancy payouts to public sector workers who were offered jobs elsewhere working for the Crown.

‘‘We think this is grossly unfair and we believe is open to legal challenge,’’ Ms Pilott said.

A challenge would be made ‘‘at the first opportunity’’ if the proposed legislation was not amended.

In a statement, State Services Minister Jonathan Coleman said the PSA’s comments were ‘‘entirely predictable’’.

However the Kiwi Counts survey, conducted by State Services Commission, did not suggest public services were deteriorating in the eyes of the public.

‘‘It records New Zealanders are increasingly satisfied with the level of public services they receive. This is a pleasing result and is the type of measurement the government is interested in.’’

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- The Dominion Post

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