Waikato court staff at risk
The Government is keeping mum about the number of proposed job losses in the Waikato after announcing a restructure of the country's court system.
However, 66 of the 68 affected staff are management level as the Justice Ministry begins a cull of its "top heavy" management structure.
The public will no longer be able to access Te Awamutu, Waihi and Te Kuiti district courts on a daily basis.
Instead, they will open only when hearings are scheduled. The courts are three of nine designated "hearing only" courts, while four courts will close.
Courts minister Chester Borrows said the Justice Ministry was consulting with staff.
The court staff union, the Public Service Association, predicts more than 200 staff will be affected nationally, with 100 jobs expected to go.
National secretary Richard Wagstaff said staff were "reeling" from the news.
“Several tiers of court management are being wiped out and there will be forced redundancies of dozens of staff in the affected courts.”
The New Zealand Law Society has also questioned the move and hoped it didn't affect the public's access to justice.
The society's Waikato branch president, Bruce Hesketh, said it was all very well to say technology has moved forward and its new system was easier - but it hadn't yet been put into practice.
"We would have preferred that the new systems were in place first."
The Government's new system won't be in place until July next year, and Green Party courts spokesman David Clendon wondered how the judicial system was expected to cope, given staff cuts are expected to come into force from March.
A Justice Ministry spokesperson said the proposed changes discussed with staff yesterday morning, were to modernise its management structures and underpin the shift to providing better services to court users and the public.
"The proposed changes would reduce the number of management layers and have minimal impact on frontline staff numbers.
"There are around 1100 management and staff in the district courts.
"The current structure is complicated and top heavy and has not been properly looked at for over 30 years.
"There is currently on average one manager for every 3.6 staff.
"The new management roles proposed would be focused much more on what people using the court system get out of it," the spokesperson said.
Staff had known for some time that change was coming, but yesterday was the first time details had been revealed.
"Currently, the proposals would result in a net reduction in [fulltime jobs] of 68, 66 of which are management roles, the spokesperson said.
"That is the total effect of disestablishing some jobs and creating other ones. In total 200 positions are potentially impacted."
That figure includes a net reduction in 13 management and staff FTEs from closing small courts and making some hearing-only courts.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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