Morale in the Defence Force remains near record lows despite steps taken to give troops more time with their families and the end of a four-year pay freeze.
The latest attitude survey for the period from April to shows 37 per cent of troops rated their personal morale level as good or excellent, while 39 per cent said it was satisfactory and 23 per cent said it was poor.
Morale plummeted to its lowest level at the start of the year and has been steadily falling since the Government began making 600 uniformed positions civilian roles as part of a drive to save $400 million.
There has been a slight increase in morale in the latest survey within the Air Force and civilian staff, but overall morale has not significantly changed.
It found 51 per cent believed the Defence Force lacked the equipment to perform well in operations, although that had also not significantly changed.
Troops were given their first pay rise in four years earlier this month amid criticisms some were left no better off after it was countered with a loss of entitlements and a rent hike for personnel living in Defence Force properties.
The survey has not yet picked up reaction to the $45 million wage hike and found only 42 per cent of personnel believed pay and benefits were fair, down from 49 per cent at the end of last year.
The Defence Force has had record high attrition rates of 19 per cent and in March the Vice-Chief of the Defence Force, Rear Admiral Jack Steer, said there would be no more forced civilianisation because the process had been ''too damaging''.
Defence Force numbers have fallen by 1000 in the past two years and the loss in navy personnel has led to its inshore patrol vessels having fewer days at sea and sailors being given more time at home to lift morale.
Labour's defence spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said the survey showed steps taken to boost morale were ''clearly not working''.
''The fact morale is flat-lining at the level it is at is nothing to celebrate, it is still extremely low. It's hard to imagine it could get any lower than it is, so it's no surprise it's not falling at the rates it has over the past year.''
Admiral Steer today said the Defence Force had embarked on one of the most ambitious reform programmes in the public sector.
''This has affected our people deeply. Our people have told us they want more certainty and more stability.''
The results were a ''platform to work from'' and the next survey would reflect the affect of the pay rise, he said. ''But we have never kidded ourselves that there is a single silver bullet.''
Lees-Galloway said he doubted the wage hike would significantly turn around morale.
''I have been contacted by Defence Force families who have said that overall they are going to be worse off.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
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