Ministries favour low-cost, no-alcohol parties

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 05:00 10/12/2012

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Government departments trimming Christmas parties to a non-alcoholic $20-a-head function may save staff from drunken blunders.

Victoria University head of psychology Marc Wilson said parties could be a good leveller of workplace hierarchies.

But alcohol was a dis-inhibitor and could cause trouble.

"If there's something you've been too controlled to say to the boss during the year, maybe having a few isn't a good idea because the little part of you that says 'hang on, do you really want to say that?' is the first part to go bye-bye after a couple of drinks."

With public servants due to knock off for the holiday soon, it appears their bosses are keeping a check on their state-funded party purses.

The State Services Commission offers no strict guidance to ministries on festive spending but it appears most have tightly capped budgets.

The Treasury held an "around the world"-themed, staff-only party at its office on The Terrace, last week. Spokesman Angus Barclay said it had budgeted $20 a head for food - and one drink each.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard MacLean said departments tended to do their own $20-a-staff member function rather than one "big whiz-bang single event".

The Education Ministry's quota of $15 a person paid for food and non-alcoholic drinks at its national and regional offices. A ministry spokesman said it sought State Services Commission-guidance before advising staff about any social event.

The Social Development Ministry contributes up to $20 an employee towards team Christmas functions.

There were no subsidies for alcohol, and no interruption to business, a spokesman said.

"There is also a ticketed Christmas party, which staff pay for . . . There is no cost to MSD for this."

The Health Ministry invited staff to an outdoor picnic with non-alcoholic beverages and a barbecue.

Christmas functions are seen as a "get to know each other" opportunity within the newly formed Business, Innovation and Employment Ministry.

Spokesman Britton Broun said individual department parties were being replaced by a joint "music idol"-themed event in Wellington on Thursday night. The event would be catered, with the ministry contributing part of the cost.

In the private sector, while loath to reveal their budgets, many are trying to emphasise families.

Fletcher Construction planned a Christmas fete for more than 3000 people, mostly for children of employees, general manager of investor and media relations Philip King said.

Telecom provides Christmas parties in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and some smaller ones in Hamilton and Dunedin.

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A spokeswoman said staff would, like last year, bring along a gift for a Kiwi child in need.

The parties will cater for more than 3500 staff members.

- The Dominion Post

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