by Denise Roche
International Public Service Day fell on our weekend – this is a time to appreciate the work done by millions of workers throughout the world who provide public services to their communities.
In New Zealand we need to think about the workers who are paid out of budgets provided by our taxes and the services they provide to us, the public.
These workers include, social workers, doctors, nurses, teachers, prison officers, probation officers, scientists, DOC workers, biosecurity staff, customs officers, Housing New Zealand staff, police – and then there’s also those who work in local government too.
New Zealand’s public service is highly regarded by the rest of the world. According to last year’s Transparency International’s survey of 182 countries our public services are seen as the least corrupt in the world and we consistently achieve high marks for clean government. However Transparency International New Zealand Co-Chair Claire Johnstone warns that we should not take our ‘clean government’ reputation for granted.
The National Government is on a mission to deliver a ‘Better Public Services’ programme which Deputy Prime Minister Bill English described in the House during question time today as ‘providing better public services with less resources.’
Their latest news on this programme is that they will link targets to get people off welfare to bonuses for state service bosses.
Linking salaries to targets to reduce entitlements is unlikely to lead to better public services or more transparency.
Last week Green MP Kevin Hague revealed that ACC had adopted this model behind closed doors in 2010.
Since then thousands of ACC claimants have been shifted off ACC due to the staff’s ‘culture of disentitlement’ and the conditions in their staff performance reviews that award bonus points for removing ACC clients from their books.
Funding cuts mean corners will also be cut and public service staff are already struggling with fewer resources. Over the last three and a half years the state sector has lost over 5500 jobs and a Victoria University survey last year of women workers in the sector revealed that most regularly performed unpaid overtime. Those hours of work add up to millions of dollars not spent on wages.
The New Zealand public like the work provided by staff in our public services. Sadly the Government’s latest ideological programme of trying to squeeze more work for less resources is unlikely to make it easier for them to provide us with the services we expect.