A thousand govt jobs cut in ‘black day’ for public service

Plans to cut over a thousand jobs at the Education Ministry and Oranga Tamariki have been announced today — dubbed a “black day” by the union for public servants.

Nearly 2500 jobs have been cut in the past several weeks as the Government looks to drive over a billion dollars in cost savings.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis said the cuts were needed to end wasteful spending and to restore financial discipline, with a focus on cutting “back-office expenditure”.

More than 1000 job losses have been announced today as the Government continues pursuing cost savings across departments and agencies.

The union representing public servants described the cuts announced today as “savage” and “rushed”. Public Service Association (PSA) assistant secretary Fleur Fitzsimons said Wednesday had been a “black day” for workers at the agencies affected.

“Today is a black day for public service workers and the children and young people they support, with savage cuts that we believe will not deliver the better outcomes the Government promises,” she said in a statement.

Thirty-nine agencies are expected to see cuts, with a dozen needing to find savings of 7.5%.

“Today, hundreds of dedicated public servants were told their jobs are gone and now face an uncertain future. This is causing incredible distress to them and their families.”

‘Heartless and chaotic’ — PSA

The PSA union claimed the cuts, affecting one in 10 workers at both agencies, would affect the delivery of frontline services for the public.

Fitzsimons said there was “no clear direction from the Government as to what will happen to savings” and that the approach to cuts had been “heartless and chaotic”.

“The Government has promised to reinvest all savings into so-called frontline services, but there is no obvious plan to do this and yet they are prepared to dismiss highly experienced and skilled public service workers the taxpayer has invested in,” she said.

“Both agencies are large and complex with many moving parts. Every worker plays an important role in delivering a better future for children and young people, yet both stand to lose hundreds of dedicated public servants, around one in 10 workers.”

Ministry of Education

The president of the country’s largest teachers’ union, the NZEI, said the scale of the cuts to Education Ministry staff would be “devastating”.

“These cuts have been sold by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance as necessary so they can make good on promised tax cuts,” Mark Potter said.

“What we see are cuts that will potentially have huge impacts on education and students for years to come.”

‘Priorities are plain wrong’ — Labour

Labour leader Chris Hipkins described the cuts at Oranga Tamariki as “unprecedented”.

“Fundamentally, this is about priorities, and this Government’s priorities are wrong.

“They’ve already prioritised $2.9 billion dollars worth of tax cuts for landlords, whilst they cut services for things like Oranga Tamariki — who deal with vulnerable children, the food in schools programme, the list could go on. I think their priorities are just plain wrong.”

Labour leader Chris Hipkins.

In February, Nicola Willis said Government ministers had been focused on stopping “low-value” programmes and to “drive resources out of back-office bureaucracy and into the frontline” as she ridiculed the previous government’s spending.

‘Value for taxpayers’ money’ — Finance Minister

“Despite a more than 80% increase in annual government expenditure expected between 2017 and 2024, hospital waiting lists have lengthened, education results have declined, and violent crime has risen,” she said.

“Extensive work is underway to ensure government agencies are driving maximum value for taxpayers’ money and minimising back-office spend with all agencies expected to deliver a savings dividend.”

Meanwhile, the Taxpayers Union, a lobby group, said today that high inflation continued to be a sign for the Govermment to go “further and faster in reining in the waste”.

Figures released today showed annual inflation still running above the Reserve Bank’s target range, at 4%, though with the economy continuing on a cooling trajectory.

“This is proof if ever she needed it that Nicola Willis must go further and faster in reining in the waste in Wellington,” the group’s public affairs manager James Ross said.

“Struggling families need to see serious cuts to spending in the Budget next month, and it’s long past time the 18,000 extra bureaucrats had their bubble burst.”

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