With the Government wildly slashing its way through the support pillars of the public service, Geoff Robertson on Morning Report interviewed the PPTA’s Kate Gainsford and the Nurses’ Geoff Annals . Their message was clear: they are ‘front-line’ workers but they were opposing cuts to ‘back-office’ staff even though those cuts were supposedly going to fund more ‘front-line’ staff. As Annals put it:
“We get worried when we hear the idea that if a job has low visibility or is a so-called ‘back office’ job then it’s not important and it can be cut. That sound more like a rationale for mindless cost-cutting and the impact may matter a great deal.
Take for instance flying. I’ve flown very often but I’ve never seen many staff essential to the safety of my flights. I’ve never seen an air traffic controller for example. Does that mean that air traffic controllers should be dispensed with? The logic of removing ‘back-office’ bureaucracy would say ‘yes, let’s free up pilots from restrictive air traffic control procedures and let them be flexible and innovative in their approach’ but I have no doubt that if the people deciding such a plan actually talked to those flying the planes, the aircrew, they would decide against the cuts.
What nurses are concerned about is that no-one is actually talking to the front-line nurses, the aircrew of the health system, to make sure the cuts really will improve quality, safety, and administrative efficiency.”
National has promised to build us a grand facade for the public service by using material from the supports at the back. What the front-line workers are telling us is that the more the Nats take from the back, the greater the danger that everything comes crashing down. We saw the results of this last time the Nats were in power when the Ministry of Justice could barely organise the election in 1999.
And the truth is that National is cutting the ‘front-line’ too. There have been redundancies in PHOs, in Customs, among social workers, and call centre staff. National is under-cutting the public service’s ability to deliver to the public, even as a poll shows that the public wants better public services.
Every job cut reduces the capability of the public service to deliver for the people of New Zealand. That is the outcome, the intended outcome, of National’s policy. It’s the same old formula, short-term mindless cuts that set us up for trouble in the future.