23 May 2024

Ministry of Social Development job losses top 700 after more cuts announced

4:13 pm on 23 May 2024
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The ministry confirmed it is proposing to cut 97 positions - of which 27 are vacant. (file image) Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The Ministry of Social Development's workforce is set to drop by more than 700, after a round of proposed cuts was announced on Thursday.

It means there are now about 5000 public sector jobs already gone, or proposed to be cut.

Have you been affected by public sector job cuts? Email hamish.cardwell@rnz.co.nz

The Ministry for Social Development (MSD) had already accepted 218 applications for voluntary redundancy in April in the service delivery, Māori communities and partnerships teams, as well as those in human resources, policy, strategy and communications.

But on Thursday it confirmed it is proposing to cut 97 positions - of which 27 are vacant.

Another 56 fixed-term employees would finish up at the end of June, it said. And since December, a further 341 roles had gone through attrition, holding vacancies, and though the expiry of fixed-term agreements.

"In total, if the change proposals go through as proposed, MSD's head count will reduce by 712 positions," MSD people and capability deputy chief executive Nadine Kilmister said.

At the end of December, the ministry employed 9482 full-time staff - meaning about 7.5 percent of the workforce was set to go.

Public Service Association national secretary Duane Leo said the quality of service provided to New Zealanders under MSD would suffer under these cuts.

Jobs were also set to go from the ministry's strategy and insights team, which researches and evaluates how MSD is performing and how efficiently it is delivering support to people to achieve the government's targets.

"The government has promised evidence-based decision-making so how does cutting this team make sense? The team is all about ensuring MSD is doing a good job supporting people. We've seen similar cuts elsewhere like Oranga Tamariki and Waka Kotahi which shows how poorly thought through these cuts are."

The union was also worried about jobs set to go from digital transformation project Te Pae Tawhiti.

"We're worried about this as the programme is all about simplifying processes, helping people connect more efficiently online with MSD, ensuring they get the benefits they are entitled to, and help job seekers be better matched with opportunities," Leo said.

Earlier, the ministry also confirmed it would no longer fund 44 of the current 132 budgeting services, due to a change in the funding model and the end of a cash boost given during the pandemic.

DOC job losses finalised

The Department of Conservation has confirmed it is cutting 124 jobs - slightly fewer that it originally proposed.

In April it floated reducing its headcount by 130, but that dropped by six after staff consultation.

That number would be reached by 1 July by disestablishing 257 permanent positions (of which 114 were already vacant) and creating 133 new ones, director-general Penny Nelson said.

The department was directed to save 6.5 percent from its budget to meet the government's savings target. It also needed to fund "cost pressures" of about $7 million for the next financial year, she said.

"Over the past few months, we have identified areas where we could make savings, which included looking at the number of positions we have, our operating expenditure and programmes where the funding is ring fenced and funding is yet to be drawn down yet," she said.

"We have tried to minimise the impact on DOC staff and on the conservation outcomes we are seeking."

The changes meant DOC would have to prioritise its work carefully, so it would focus its effort on "the work that makes the biggest difference for nature", she said.

Decisions about programmes and operating expenditure will be communicated as part of Budget 2024.

So far, nearly 5000 public sector jobs have already gone or are set to go as part of the government's cost-cutting measures.

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