MAF Biosecurity is set to cut 60 jobs – 30 of them filled. It claims the fall in imports means it’s over budget and doesn’t need so many staff. I’ve got a few problems with that.
Let’s assume these 30 workers about to get the sack are on the average wage ($48,000). The savings from firing them totals about $1.5 million a year. Bit more for related costs saved too, offset at least in part by redundancy payments that will total hundreds of thousands. Let’s call it $2 million in savings.
Well, the Government cut $2 million from biosecurity in the Budget. So, let’s not blame falling imports here. It’s the Government that cut these jobs (responsible minister David Carter was one of three ministers who refused to front on issues core to their portfolios on Morning report today).
MAF says that biosecurity won’t suffer because there are excess staff now.
Yeah, now, maybe. But Treasury projects that imports will be back to 2007/08 levels by 2011/12. It takes two years (and tens of thousands of dollars) to train a biosecurity officer. So, they’re going to have to start hiring again within a year of firing these workers. If they don’t, they’ll end up unable to meet demand, biosecurity will suffer and they’ll end up paying out more in over-time. More training, more overtime, less experienced staff – there goes your savings up in smoke.
So, it looks like a border-line if not just dumb decision purely from Biosecurity’s point of view, one brought on by the Government’s Budget cuts. Now add the wider costs to the government and the economy:
30 more people out of work means lower tax take and higher benefit payments. Assume they were on the average wage and half go on the dole – you’re looking at hit of about $450,000 to the government’s books. That’s without counting the multiplier effect of their reduced spending sending other people out of work and on to the dole queue.
On top of that, this is a cut to New Zealand’s ability to screen for dangerous organisms that could have devastating effects to our economy. better to keep on the extra staff and do an even more thorough job while imports are down than chase phantom savings at the expense of jobs.
– Marty G