Defence staff eye leaving as morale falls

HANK SCHOUTEN
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2012

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Morale in the Defence Force has fallen to its lowest point in eight years and increasing numbers want to leave.

A survey late last year, after more than 300 uniformed staff lost their jobs in the first round of proposed cuts, shows increasing dissatisfaction with pay and the erosion of conditions.

A copy of the survey, obtained by The Dominion Post, says the number of people wanting to leave the military is significantly higher than it was two years ago.

"Continuing drops in morale and recent drops in engagement are expected to have flow-on effects on performance and attrition."

Morale among navy, army, air force and civilian personnel fell significantly over the year and personnel needed a reason to believe things would improve rather than worsen.

Pride in belonging to the NZDF also fell significantly and only about half the 1179 who took part in the survey felt the military had the equipment needed to perform well in operations.

Comments suggested there was a real "us v them" separation between those at the "coalface" and those in the "ivory towers/headquarters".

Levels of commitment were also down. "Personnel felt relatively low obligation to stay in the NZDF. This may reflect a perception that recent changes in the organisation have altered the nature of the relationship between the NZDF and its personnel."

There was a feeling it was not looking after people and that it had little concern for their views and feelings.

Sentiment was represented by the comment: "I like working for the NZDF but the added stress of civilianisation and the constant threat of job losses would definitely make me seriously consider an outside job offer if one came along."

Erosion of conditions  pay, leave, accommodation and other allowances, superannuation, medical and dental care  meant it was an increasingly less attractive place to work.

Labour defence spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway said morale would have dropped even further after Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman's recent comment that people in defence needed to drop the attitude that it was a job for life.

Mr Lees-Galloway said there was a serious danger the Defence Force was going to lose many of the skilled people it needed because of the appalling way it had handled the cost-cutting process, which was still falling short of achieving the target of saving $300 million to $400m a year.

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- Fairfax Media

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