4 Apr 2024

Public sector workers 'angry, annoyed' at government job cuts

1:28 pm on 4 April 2024
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Wellington is likely to bear the brunt of public sector job cuts. Photo: Screenshot

Distraught public servants have told RNZ of the emotional and financial stress they are under as they face losing their jobs.

Government departments are consulting with staff over how they will meet the coalition government's demands to cut costs.

A staff member at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, who RNZ has agreed not to name, said she has been told her job could be disestablished.

The ministry has already accepted more than 100 applications for voluntary redundancy and has extended the offer to other departments.

Have you lost your job from the cost-cutting measures? Contact jemima.huston@rnz.co.nz

But the analyst said she received an email a week ago, proposing that 107 roles would be axed - with a final decision to be made in May following staff consultation.

The public servant was worried about how she will pay rent, groceries and bills.

"I am the main earner, between myself and my partner and we rent ... The moment I found out, my mind goes straight to calculating how long I can survive before we're in the s***.

"I don't know when my final date will be, but I had to work off what I could and redundancy will only get me through till about June."

The worker said she was considered working in hospitality or retail to get by.

"It puts me in a really awkward position, because I now have to join this over-saturated workforce, who are all trying to get work and I'm going to have to take, most likely, a big cut to my salary expectation and the type of work that I do."

But she was angry and annoyed that senior leadership and management roles did not seem to be affected.

"It's quite frustrating, because they're earning salaries upwards of $180,000-$200,000 a year.

"So when you think about the percentage of cuts we're being expected to make, instead of having less [numerical] cuts of roles, with the higher salaries to make up for that, they're just going for whoever is going to be able to save their ass."

Another staffer at MBIE said the offer of voluntary redundancy had been extended to her department.

"We were told we weren't going to lose our jobs and then all of a sudden they threw a curveball at us."

She said people were already over-worked - and when roles were cut, it would get worse.

"A lot of us are working over our 40 hours to get things delivered.

"I'm going to be very honest, and the expectation is it's going to get worse before it gets better - especially if people are going to get cut, especially if people take on to redundancies.

"We don't replace those people, we just take on the work and continue."

MBIE deputy secretary Greg Patchell said consultation on the cuts proposal had begun for staff in the digital, data and insights group.

He confirmed it proposed to distestablish a number of jobs or push workers to reapply for a reduced number of roles.

Patchell said the proposal would also establish some new positions.

The Ministry of Social Development was also looking at cutting jobs.

But one worker who had been told his contract was on the chopping block was angry the ministry was still actively hiring.

"Since being told this message that I won't be able to stay in my job, I have seen... senior management jobs that the ministry is hiring for. Like I thought we have no budget? But somehow we have budget to hire people with six-figure salaries?

"It's been so frustrating [and] makes me angry because as a young person/graduate, we're the one being screwed over and I can't apply for any of those senior management jobs because I don't have the skills and experience."

He said losing his job had been mentally draining and he was looking at moving overseas.

"This is a typical bureaucratic move, where senior officials in Wellington offices are getting rid of new and young talent. This is why myself and so many of my friends who've been impacted by this are moving across the ditch. If you can't retain us here, then we're not gonna stay here."

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