54 IRD jobs slashed in Invercargill

23:14, Sep 07 2011

Fifty-four people will lose their jobs from the Invercargill Inland Revenue office.

Yesterday, the IRD announced its final decision on proposed job losses which were made public on August 4.

Invercargill office staff will be cut from 82 to 28, as part of the axing of 151 jobs from provincial centres across New Zealand.

The final redundancy figure is nine fewer than originally proposed last month.

More than 140 submissions on the cuts have been heard by the IRD since August 4, it said.

The nine jobs were saved after the IRD found some Queenstown and Wanaka residents preferred visiting Invercargill to Dunedin.

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"It became apparent during the consultation period that many customers in the Queenstown-Lakes area have strong expectations of receiving service from Invercargill as well as Dunedin," a spokesperson said. "Community compliance officers were retained in Invercargill to help service this area along with an additional team leader to manage the increase in staff numbers."

Mayor Tim Shadbolt described the cuts as a "body blow" earlier this week, while the Invercargill Chamber of Commerce said redundant staff may have to move away from the region or retrain to find other work.

The cuts were aimed at moving computer-based jobs to cities to lower costs and improve efficiency, a move which had drawn the ire of the Invercargill City Council, the Chamber of Commerce and the Public Services Association (PSA).

The confirmation comes with the city's Department of Conservation branch also facing 18 job losses as the Government trims the public sector.

Chamber of Commerce chief executive Richard Hay said it was disappointed in the decision.

"These transferable positions could have gone in reverse – Southland is capable of doing those roles and increasing them. We and the city council have been very active in making our position quite clear – they should be increasing positions in Southland not decreasing them."

Laid-off staff could have to move away to take up other positions or face retraining to find another job, Mr Hay said.

"People are starting to re-employ but there certainly isn't a large number of admin positions [available in the city]."

PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff said pressure from his organisation and other submitters had saved some jobs but that did not alter the fact the cuts were "ripping badly needed work out of the regions".

In its submission the PSA raised concerns about the efficiency of transferring the jobs, the effect on the flexibility of the IRD and the impact on communities.

The Invercargill City Council raised similar concerns to Revenue Minister Peter Dunne.

However, the IRD said the move would bring lower costs, improved customer service and increased efficiency.

"We are confident that the changes will deliver savings as work that does not require direct contact with customers is moved to larger sites," it said.

"We are shifting work such as correspondence that does not have a local focus ..."

Changes will take place over 18 months, with staff given the opportunity to take redundancy, re-apply for positions or relocate, it said.

alex.fensome@stl.co.nz

The Southland Times