Defence jobs to fall by 500

00:00, May 28 2011

There will be 500 fewer military staff in uniform by the end of the year, including personnel from the Linton, Waiouru and Ohakea bases, as the Government begins its civilianisation of the Defence Force.

The Manawatu Defence Hub has already had 59 jobs earmarked for civilianisation – 23 at Linton, 25 at Waiouru and 11 at Ohakea – which involves changing sworn military roles into civilian positions.

The 59 jobs will include nine instructors and two photographers from Linton and Ohakea, and two instructors, two administrators and a carpenter from Waiouru. Most staff are expected to be told their fate by late June.

The plans were announced in the Government's Defence White Paper, released last year, and involve 1400 military jobs being civilianised during the next two to three years.

The Defence Force has so far identified 270 nationwide roles in the first round of civilianisation, but about 500 jobs are expected to change by the end of the year.

Assistant chief of personnel, Commodore Kevin Keat, said the affected staff would be encouraged to apply for the new roles after they were advertised both internally and externally. "Services are currently determining who we should retain in uniform based on performance and deployability and those who should be released.

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"All those impacted will be given CV preparation and job interview skills training to help them prepare for new roles either within or outside of the Defence Force."

Commodore Keat could not comment on how many staff were planning to apply for their former roles.

Labour defence spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said he was concerned about the uncertainty surrounding the plans. "The feeling I've been getting is that there is a lot of nervousness and a lot of uncertainty about what this means."

He feared that staff who retained a civilianised role could face pay and benefit reductions.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said the civilianisation plans would save the Defence Force about $30 million as civilian staff did not require the training and equipment sworn staff did.

Colonel Howard Duffy, who commands the 2nd Land Force Group, said Linton stood to gain from any shift towards increasing the army's operational capacity, but he admitted it was a difficult time.

"It's not usual for army people to be dealing with releasing people in this manner, so it's learning experience for all of us," he said. "I think there is a high level of uncertainty there for some people and there will be unrest until more details are received exactly on who are the people that will be affected."

Colonel Duffy described the 150 civilians working at Linton as the camp's "backbone" as they provided organisational continuity while operational staff were on deployment.

Concerns have been raised about the army clearing out staff deemed unfit for overseas deployment, including those unable to pass fitness tests because of illness or injury.

But Commodore Keat said fitness tests were only one factor being reviewed. "It is to identify which roles require military skills, training and experience and which can be performed by a civilian.

"We also acknowledge the Defence Force needs to ensure it is configured to deliver on New Zealand's national security and defence interests at all times."

People who leave the military with injuries continue to have cover for their condition through ACC or the Defence Force workplace insurance scheme, he said.

Manawatu Standard