13 Jun 2024

How many public sector roles are going, and from where?

2:34 pm on 13 June 2024
Composite of the Beehive, an exit sign and a person walking with briefcase

Photo: Unsplash / RNZ

The number of cuts in the public sector continues to climb. 

National campaigned on slashing “back-office expenditure” as part of its “Back Pocket Boost” tax plan. Finance Minister Nicola Willis asked public service departments to identify savings options of either 6.5 or 7.5 percent.  

(Departments that had grown by more than 50 percent since 2017 were allocated the higher percentage.) 

At Budget 2024, the government said it has met its baseline savings target of $1.5 billion average operating savings per year.  

Have you been affected by job cuts in the public sector? Contact us at hamish.cardwell@rnz.co.nz

Willis would not rule out further job losses. 

Minister for Regulation David Seymour previously indicated the number could be up to 7500

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said savings “across the public sector” were being reinvested in frontline services and tax reductions. 

Ministries and agencies have been announcing job cuts.  

Beyond those core departments, other public sector agencies have made cuts despite not being directed to by the Finance Minister. Some cite tough economic times. 

For example, Crown entities such as WorkSafe and Callaghan Innovation have made cuts, along with Crown research institute Niwa, for example. 

RNZ is keeping track of the impact of the job losses, and is counting roles going across the wider public sector.  

Not all cuts are the result of government savings requirements: some are projects that are no longer going ahead under the coalition government, and others are vacances that are no longer being filled.  

Here's what we know.

Ministry of Education (employs 4509 staff as of December 2023)

The Ministry of Education has proposed to cut a total of 755 positions, of which 316 are currently vacant. The cuts include nearly 100 regional and frontline roles directly supporting schools.

The PSA said on 21 May it understood the ministry had confirmed at least 605 of those cuts. The ministry could not confirm it yet, and said it was still working through decisions.

On 11 June RNZ reported a further 119 roles going in the Ministry's digital division.

That takes the current loss total to 724.

Department of Corrections (employs 9793 staff)

The Department of Corrections has confirmed it's disestablished 107 back office jobs - all of which are vacant. The department says no staff have been made redundant, and it's still recruiting for frontline staff.

Oranga Tamariki (employs 5100 staff)

Oranga Tamariki has confirmed it is proposing to cut 447 jobs at the ministry.

Its workforce would be reduced by 9 percent.

ACC (employs 4400 staff)

ACC is proposing a net reduction of 325 roles. That comprises of a reduction of 390 roles non-customer facing roles, of which 81 are vacant, and 65 new roles.

Its board has also endorsed a plan to reinvest some of the proposed savings in approximately 250 additional client-facing roles. The exact nature of these roles is yet to be finalised.

New Zealand Qualifications Authority (employs 471 staff as of March 2024) 

New Zealand Qualifications Authority is proposing to cut 35 roles after the NCEA change programme was postponed. 

Sixty six jobs have been disestablished and 31 new ones proposed. Thirteen of the jobs going are vacant. 

Ministry for the Environment (employs 993 staff, according to its latest release)

The ministry on 5 June proposed cutting 338 full-time jobs, nearly a third of its workforce.

About 150 fixed term contracts would end at the end of October. There would also be voluntary and proposed redundancies of permanent employees - and some will be delayed until the end of June next year.

The ministry previously expanded to do waste, water and resource management programmes, which have now ended.

Department of Conservation (employs 2797 staff)

The Department of Conservation has confirmed 124 roles will go - six fewer than its original proposal. That number would be reached by disetablishing 257 permanent positions (of which 114 were already vacant) and creating 133 new ones. The changes would take effect on 1 July.

Transport Agency Waka Kotahi (employs 2907 people as of April 2024)

NZTA Waka Kotahi is to cut 12 roles from its digital team, with consultation underway until the end of May.

A further 109 roles have already been disestablished from programmes canned or scaled back by the change of government: Clean Car Discount, Climate Emergency Response Fund, and Let's Get Wellington Moving.

On May 23, the agency announced a proposal to reduce staff by a further 24 jobs, this time from the engagement and partnerships team.

On 28 May, it agency said another 38 jobs could go, on top of the existing cuts.

The agency is releasing job cut proposals in tranches the 28 May announcement was for a net reduction of 33 in its system leadership team, and 5 in its business support services team.

On 6 June Waka Kotahi has announced the latest in its tranche of proposed job losses, with 60 jobs going from its transport services team - mostly from vacancies.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (employs 6650 staff)

MBIE has confirmed 341 jobs were going, or had already gone. Some cuts happened early in the year, before Willis' directives. Others happened during a round of voluntary redundancies in March.

In May, the ministry said it had accepted further voluntary redundancies, bringing its total job losses up to 341 full-time positions. 

Further reductions were under way in Te Whakatairanga Service Delivery and Digital, Data and Insights Group teams, subject to a consultation process, a spokesman told RNZ.

Ministry of Culture and Heritage (employs 165 staff)

The ministry has confirmed it will shed 32 full time staff. The reduction includes 10 voluntary redundancies, roles being disestablished and replaced with fewer roles, and fixed-term contracts coming to an end.

Ministry of Housing and Urban Development - Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga (employs 386 staff)

Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is proposing to cut 40 roles - 10 of which were vacant.

Overall, it was a 10.4 percent reduction in its workforce, with final decisions on the proposed changes coming mid-June, the ministry said.

Kāinga Ora (employed almost 3300 staff as of April 2023)

Kāinga Ora is proposing a net reduction of 159 positions across its teams within the People Governance and Capability, Government and Sector Relationships, and National Services groups.

It says the exact number of positions that will be disestablished will not be finalised until consultation with affected staff is completed. Change proposals for some other teams within Kāinga Ora will be put out for consultation with affected staff in the coming months

Commerce Commission (employs 428 staff)

The agency is proposing to cut about 10 percent of its workforce - between 35 to 40 roles, RNZ understands.

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (employs 700 staff)

Up to 90 jobs were going at Niwa, according to the PSA, with 30 of them currently vacant. Niwa said the cuts would have no impact on its core work, according to the union.

Ministry of Health (employs 806 staff)

The ministry was proposing to cut 134 jobs in total - some of them already vacant.

A quarter of all positions would be disestablished (271), while 137 new positions were proposed.

Consultation was set to close on 26 April and a final decision made in June.

On 13 June the Ministry confirmed a net job loss of 123 roles - nine fewer than was previously indicated.

Ministry of Social Development (employs 9482 staff)

More than 700 roles could be gone at the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). 

It accepted voluntary redundancy from 218 workers in April - and on 23 May, it announced it was proposing to cut 97 roles, of which 27 were vacant. It also confirmed another 56 fixed-term employees would finish up at the end of June. 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," said MSD people and capability deputy chief executive Nadine Kilmister.

Ministry of Māori Development - Te Puni Kōkiri (employs 464 staff)

Te Puni Kōkiri has proposed a net reduction of 38 roles, or 8 percent of its staff.

The proposal includes both creating and disestablishing positions, but the ministry did not give a breakdown of those numbers.

After a three-week staff consultation period, changes would be confirmed by 30 June, it said.

Ministry for Primary Industries (employs 3767 staff)

The ministry has confirmed it's cutting 391 jobs, or about 10 percent of its workforce. That was slightly more than the 384 it originally proposed in March, following consultation with staff.

Of those set to go, 65 people have left due to natural attrition or early redundancy, 193 are vacant positions, and 133 are directly affected by the decisions. 

Public Service Commission (employs 202 people)

On 23 May, the Commission confirmed it was proposing to disestablish 24 roles and offering 13 people voluntary redundancy - reducing the overall head-count by 37

The Commission's pay equity taskforce that works for equal pay for women is being disestablished, and six people working on the project could lose their jobs.

The Commission said that was separate from its effort to find savings of 7.5 percent as part of wider public sector cost cutting measures.

Department of Internal Affairs (employs 2824 staff)

DIA has announced a first round of job cuts - with 28 jobs set to go at the National Library and its Māori Strategy and Performance team as part of cost cutting measures.

Meanwhile it has confirmed the vast majority of the more than 400 staff working on the previous government's national water reform will be gone by end of the month.

The Department of Internal Affairs said on 22 April that 59 roles are set to axed - of which 42 are vacant.  

The PSA said the cuts at DIA included workers from teams dealing with child exploitation, money laundering and counter terrorism.

On 1 May DIA announced further cuts, with a net reduction of 66 roles from its organisational capability and services branch and the digital public service branch.

The PSA said the proposal would axe the government chief privacy officer, as well as six other roles related to information security, and was "reckless".

Ministry for Pacific Peoples (employs 121 staff)

The ministry confirmed it was shedding 57 positions - nearly half its total roles. That included 36 currently vacant positions. Originally, it had planned to cut 63 roles but revised this number down.

Ministry of Transport (employs 232 staff)

There has already been a net reduction of 24 roles across the organisation, most of which were vacant, said chief executive Audrey Sonerson.

The ministry made a number of staff redundant and got rid of vacancies it had been struggling to fill and did not intend to make further staffing changes at this stage, she said.

Stats NZ (employs 1491 staff) 

Meanwhile, Stats NZ has confirmed 84 people have accepted voluntary redundancy.

That's on top of 29 job losses already announced in December.  

The Treasury (employs 650 staff) 

Treasury has proposed axing 50 jobs through attrition, ending fixed term contracts and closing vacancies. 

Final numbers could not be confirmed until budget decisions in May. 

Police (employs about 15,000 staff) 

On Budget day 2024, the police commissioner emailed staff that about 175 non-sworn jobs in corporate services were proposed to go, with the government asking police to save $55m.

The Police association says an additional 200 back-office roles are also already vacant due to a hiring freeze. 

More information would be released in August.

Customs (employs 1366 staff)

Thirty-three Customs staff have accepted voluntary redundancy or early retirement. The service was considering further options to meet the required savings, including reviewing existing vacancies, it said.

On 22 April Customs announced a further 78 roles were proposed to go at airports, and ports around the country.

Crown Law Office (employs 229 staff)

At Crown Law, 17 roles will be disestablished. Of those, nine were currently vacant - meaning eight people would lose their jobs, which was about 3.5 percent of its staff.

Crown Law said the new structure would be in place from 1 July.

Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (employs 386 staff)

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is proposing to cut 40 roles - 10 of which are currently vacant.

It says overall it is a 10 percent (10.4) reduction in its workforce, with final decisions on the proposed changes coming mid-June.

Education Review Office (employs 250 staff)

ERO has proposed axing 13 positions, according to the PSA. It suggested disestablishing 25 roles, and creating 12 new ones. The roles that could go included review officers who assess how well school and early childhood centres are educating children, the PSA said.

Ministry for Ethnic Communities (employs 77 staff)

In March, the Ministry for Ethnic Communities began consultations about reducing the number of permanent staff and its work out of regional government offices in Hamilton, New Plymouth, Napier, and Dunedin.

It has confirmed its proposed reduction of nine roles, about 12 percent of its staff. That comes from 32 positions being disestablished and 23 new roles being created.

The ministry said the reassignment process for the new roles would be undertaken throughout May.

Callaghan Innovation (employs 382 staff)

On 8 April, Callaghan Innovation said about 30 FTE science and engineering jobs in its Innovation Expertise Hapū were being consulted on.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment-funded research organisation said it had not been asked to make a specific percentage of savings, but its board had directed a refocus on its original purpose, which was to support industry-led science and technology-based innovation - and its commercialisation.

The agency employed 382 full time staff, meaning the proposed changes could affect just under 8 percent of its workforce. A final decision could be expected in May or June.

WorkSafe (employed 644 as of December 2023)  

WorkSafe announced in November last year 113 jobs were going. It said there have been no reductions in inspector or investigator roles.

Tertiary Education Commission (employs 363 staff as of 30 June 2023)

The commission is cutting 28 roles, with the PSA saying they are mainly held by women. 

The Public Service Association says of the 28 roles, which include administration and clerical positions, nine are vacant.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (employs 651 staff)

On 17 April, NZTE said it had not yet received a formal notification of any additional cost reduction requirement, however it knew it would be required to play its part in meeting the government's cost reduction in the public service and would take appropriate action when notified.

Scion (employs 348 staff as of 2023 annual report)

The Crown forestry institute plans to cut about 30 roles, about 10 percent of its workforce, according to the PSA.

Land Information New Zealand

Land Information New Zealand has proposed to make a net reduction of 57 jobs too meet the government's demands to cut costs.

A spokesperson said it has disestablished 53 vacancies, including leadership roles, and is currently consulting with staff over cutting another five jobs.

The department said since October last year it has reduced the use of contractors and consultants and halved discretionary spending such as travel, training and catering.

It has not called for voluntary redundancies. 

Ministry of Justice (employs 4758 staff)

On 6 June the Ministry of Justice said it was proposing a net reduction of 123 roles: a total of 11 percent of staff in its national office which does corporate services, policy, legal and strategy functions, and operational support.

Sixty-seven of the roles are currently vacant. 

* RNZ's job loss numbers are based on statements from the ministries and the PSA. Total staff numbers are based on Public Service Commission figures from December 31, 2023 or more recent ones provided by agencies.

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