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Pay freeze would cause long-term damage

Written By: - Date published: 5:38 am, September 28th, 2009 - 27 comments
Categories: bill english, national/act government, public services, Unions, wages - Tags:

While filling his own pockets with our money, Bill ‘Double Dipton’ English is threatening public sevants with a five-year pay freeze – with inflation, that’s a 10% pay cut. The government can afford to give its workers small cost of living adjustments – the cost is relatively trivial.

Parliament workers recently rejected an offer that would have locked in zero pay increases an reduced redundancy provisions. DHBs are trying to impose zero percent on the nurses. Negotiations at several other government bodies look set to fail as management seeks to enforce the unofficial pay freeze and workers demand a cost of living adjustment. There is a possibility that the government will soon face industrial action across a number of ministries and departments.

The government may find quickly just how hard it is to govern without so-called bureaucrats, and how much free over-time a lot of them do, when they go on strike or start working to rule. I expect that the PSA will accompany any widespread strike action with a campaign similiar to the “Not ‘De-necessary'” campaign in Queensland to show public the human face of the public service.

Eventually, the government will have to bend.

But that’s just the immediate effect. English’s attempt to cut public servants’ pay will have long-term effects. Already, public service wages are lower than equilivant private sector jobs (anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about). People go into public service and take lower pay because they want their work to contribute to the wider good. But that alturism only runs so deep. National’s policy of treating public servants like crap and cutting their wages will drive good people out of public service and into the private sector.

Ultimately, if English persists with trying to cut the workers’ pay, he will downgrade both the quality and morale of the public service. Just like last time they were in government, National is trying to put us on a path that leads to a less efective, less efficent government, and then we all lose.

27 comments on “Pay freeze would cause long-term damage ”

  1. Tim Ellis 1

    Do public servants ever NOT work to rule?

    • Eddie 1.1

      Yes. The vast majority of public servants I know put in hours of free overtime every week.

      • Tim Ellis 1.1.1

        Yeah right.

        • Eddie

          It’s true Tim. If you knew anything about the public service, you would know it is true, therefore, you are speaking out of ignorance.

          If you call me a liar without evidence on my website again, you’ll have to go find somewhere else to play.

          • Tim Ellis

            I didn’t call you a liar Eddie, I just expressed a different opinion to you. There is no reason to get so hostile.

            I have worked in the public service before. I don’t speak out of ignorance.

            • Maynard J

              Tim, when someone states something as a fact, and you say “Yeah Right”, that means you are saying you do not believe them and that they are lying. There is no way you would not know that, so you are also lying where you say that you did not call Eddie a liar. Your intellectual dishonesty is really disgusting.

            • Tim Ellis

              Maynard J, when somebody states something as fact, it might not actually be a fact, it might just be an opinion. Eddie expressed an opinion that I disagreed with.

              If Eddie had said: “Helen Clark is the greatest Prime Minister New Zealand has ever had, and Len Brown is the best person to be the next super mayor”, are these facts or opinions? If I had said “yeah right” to those statements, would I be accusing Eddie of lying or just having a different opinion?

              I have had problems with Eddie’s accuracy on factual matters in the past, and I haven’t hesitated to point them out. In this case I’m just saying I don’t share his view that public servants are hard working.

            • Pascal's bookie

              “Hard working” is indeed opinion Tim. Whether they always “work to rule” however, is not.

              Nor is this:

              “The vast majority of public servants I know put in hours of free overtime every week.”

              And that’s what you said ‘yeah right’ to.

            • Bright Red

              Eddie stated his personal experience: “The vast majority of public servants I know put in hours of free overtime every week”. It’s a statement of fact, not opinion.

              You said that wasn’t true. The only way that can’t be true is if Eddie was lying to us about his personal experience.

              I wonder how you know the work habits of the public servants Eddie knows. Perhaps it’s another case of arrogance is bliss.

          • RedLogix


            I’ve just come off the back a 30 hour non-stop stint helping to keep an essential public service running smoothly for you Tim. That made for a total of 70 hours worked last week, which given that I’m on a salary makes my hourly rate look a tad weedy. (And that’s on top of a pay freeze this year as well.)

            You know where you can shove your ‘yeah right’ spin boy.

            • ben

              Red, so you’re the one doing all the work.

              Thanks, mate.

              You’re the exception. Public servants do not have a reputation for long hours or high performance. They do have a reputation for drinking coffee and calling it work, and of arriving at 9 and leaving at 5. Are you seriously suggesting that is in spite of reality? Please.

              The pay, though, is grand by comparison.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 1.2

      Fair enough if you think Public Service Productivity is too low, but do you honesty believe a wage freeze is going to help public Service Productivity?

      Well qualified, experienced, in demand doctors, teachers, engineers, accountants etc.. are all going to head off-shore or to the private sector. This will leave us with the most unproductive, unqualified, inexperienced public servants and a severe dumbing down of the quality of service business and the public and visitors will receive.

      Then we will be back to trying to recruit professionals from off shore costing us twice as much.

      Not real smart.

      • George D 1.2.1

        National’s aim has always been to destroy the public service, reduce it to a pathetic small core, on the basis of voodoo economic theory about efficiency in the state. If the entire public service went to Australia today, they’d be delighted.

        • Zaphod Beeblebrox

          Except they wouldn’t be able to govern. A lot of governments talk about improving PS efficiency then pull back when they realise their constituency are the ones starting to suffer. A classic case for this govt will be MoF. One day we are broke, next day $billions have appeared to build new motorways.

  2. Gordon Knight 2

    Thanks to National New zealand is just now coming to the end of a big recession and it will not be for a while before employment prospects for everyone get better. There is no point in giving its own staff more money because it will make staff in business where the real economy is want more money too. A visious circle causing unnecesary strife. If you are right and it is a big if and the good people leave they can get jobs in business for when National make goverment services more efficient by letting business run them. They would get more money in business anyway so why not. I would not mind it if some public staff can get paid more when they are more productive which they will be when there are not so many of them.

    • Eddie 2.1

      a) you think that the Government ended the recession? Oh, did you know the economy expanded by just $27 million in the June quarter and that was actually just seasonal-adjustment, without seasonal adjustment the economy shrank

      b) we’re not talking about paying public servants more, we’re talking about paying them the same, after-inflation.

  3. communistidiots 4

    You guys are freaking deranged and divorced from reality.

  4. handle 5

    Driving workers into the private sector is precisely what this government wants.

  5. StephenR 6

    People go into public service and take lower pay because they want their work to contribute to the wider good.

    I’m not saying that’s never the case, but when myself and my friends were grads (in a variety of fields) a few years ago, no one really gave a toss whether the job was public or private, we were just interested in the money/opportunities that went with the job. The public (well central government) salaries really were not too shabby.

  6. Tim Ellis 7

    Further Eddie have you got any evidence that public service pay is lower than private sector pay?

    • IrishBill 7.1

      “In the largest organisations, those in the private sector could expect an average package of $1 million plus.

      However, chief executives in the largest public sector organisations could expect an average of $404,000.

      The difference dwindled as organisation size decreased.

      Chief executives in sub-$15 million public sector organisations earned virtually the same $166,000 fixed pay as their private sector counterparts.

      It was a similar story for other executives, with the overall private sector clearly outpaying the overall public sector”


      Is that evidence enough, Tim?

  7. StephenR 8

    Further Eddie have you got any evidence that public service pay is lower than private sector pay?

    That was against “equilivant” [sic] private sector jobs, not one sector v the other.

  8. ben 9

    Eddie the public sector is already paid more than their private sector counterparts, according to a Massey study conducted abotu a year ago. True, that was pre-freeze, but the public sector premium was large and it hasn’t gone away. Until there is something like alignment between the two the public sector lead is indefensible. Public servants are free to leave if they find the public sector premium, shorter hours and freedom from competing to win more revenue than they bear in costs too much to handle in the public sector.

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