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Written By: - Date published: 7:50 am, March 13th, 2012 - 14 comments
Categories: public services - Tags: ,

It’s easy to attack the extra remuneration that diplomats get while on posting as ‘perks’ that can be cut. But they serve an important purpose. Diplomats and their families have to up-root their whole lives to go on posting. For diplomats’ partners, that usually means giving up their work and income. If there’s no compensation for that, then diplomats won’t be able to go.

Belatedly, the government seems to be waking up to the fact that it has gotten the Mfat cuts badly wrong – helped by a seemingly endless stream of leaks, including the leaking of an order to stop writing critical cables that could be leaked.

Over at Red Alert, Grant Robertson has written on the issue of diplomats’ families and their ‘perks’:

In the midst of the train wreck that has been the changes to MFAT, the treatment of partners of MFAT staff has been disrespectful, if not downright disgraceful. Remarkably, early on after the release of the change document the MFAT partners group were told that they were excluded from contributing to the so-called consultation process. They were reduced to asking for information under the Official Information Act. This is a huge slap in the face for people who put their lives on hold to accompany partners overseas, and often play an essential and unpaid role in advancing New Zealand’s interests overseas.

Tonight they have released an open letter to CEO John Allen. Just how significant an impact going on a posting has on couples is in some of the statistics in the letter

– 100% of responding partners (83) were or had been in full time employment in NZ or their country of origin.
– Of these, only 1 had not had to resign from their employment to join their partner on posting.
– Only 14 partners had been able to find comparable employment – either on posting or return to NZ (i.e. 83% had not).
– 55% of partners had been in a NZ superannuation scheme, of which 61% had had to leave or suspend the scheme to accompany their MFAT partner on posting.
– 83% of partners felt they were in a worse position in terms of their current employment status compared to what they could have expected had they not been an MFAT partner.

What comes through the most in the partners submission is just how hurt they are that they have been excluded. MFAT has struggled over the years to get its family friendly policies right, but this is a whole other level. The conclusion of the letter is worth quoting in full

Through the restructuring proposals you are putting at issue the question of how New Zealand can best achieve its foreign policy objectives and provides services to New Zealanders abroad. This includes securing vital objectives such as obtaining a seat on the Security Council and the securing of trade and economic agreements on which the country critically depends. We do not for a moment question that there are aspects of MFAT that are in need of change. However our only possible conclusion, from the changes you have proposed, is that you have not understood the impact your proposals will have on the Ministry’s ability to attract and retain partnered staff. Refusal to properly consider and understand the impact of your proposals on the commitment of staff and their partners and families to the Ministry would be deeply irresponsible.

There is some hint that the government might be about to back down on aspects of its proposals. Good. How about relenting and getting the partners view included as part of the process as well?

14 comments on “‘Perks’? ”

  1. insider 1

    Private sector companies don’t give this compensation (in my experience) for domestic or international moves. It’s one of the judgement calls you have to make when choosing to advance a career. My partner never got asked at all when the methodology used in my company was changed.

    Makes them sound even more like a bunch of out of touch whiners with a huge dose of entitlementitis

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 1.1

      In your experience? So? Who cares how compromised you are? How is your bending over for the mighty dollar a good role model for anyone?

      • insider 1.1.1

        Last I heard state sector salaries were market based. Sounds like they are getting way more than usual entitlements.

        • McFlock

          I love the way that “pay peanuts, get monkeys” only applies to director and CEO remuneration, never workers (no matter what colour the collar).

        • Kotahi Tane Huna

          You missed my point, which is that your low expectations of your own value and worth are not a good benchmark for a human being.

          But let’s say your mental slavery should apply to everyone, and market forces are the only consideration. I like the way you are whinging about MFaT staff using ‘market’ forces to preserve their conditions, it reveals you as yet another Tory hypocrite.

    • shreddakj 1.2

      Serving your country as a diplomat is a bit different to being posted overseas by a private company too.

      • insider 1.2.1

        So do the Police, defence, Customs, MAF and Immigration staff who also ‘serve their country’ get similar consideration?

        • shreddakj

          A lot of it has been slashed now, but previously yes. Defence postings came with perks like housing and so on. I don’t see what relevance customs, MAF, immigration and police really have to do with it, because as far as I’m aware they don’t get ‘posted’ somewhere in the same way that diplomats and defence personnel do.

          • insider

            They get posted regularly just the same way as MFAT people. MFAT is just one part of our global commitment. MAF, Police and Customs are posted to embassies and liaison roles around the world and we have immigration offices in a number of countries too and NZ Trade and Enterprise.

    • rosy 1.3

      “Private sector companies don’t give this compensation”
      They do, for contracts that are not permanent, in my experience – currently on a contract overseas – And that’s much more akin to an MFAT time-limited posting. But yeah, you’re compensating for 2 jobs down to one, what do you do with your home back in NZ, which may still have a mortgage that is not covered by rent, loss of social contacts etc.

      Luckily for me our posting is in a really desirable place. Lucky for me also is I don’t have young children that need school, baby-sitters etc. There’s no way these postings would be worth it without the allowances to compensate for the disruption, especially in the not so desirable places. I talk to many people that have had enough after about 18 months.

  2. Kotahi Tane Huna 2

    Yes Insider, the government gets away with treating some people like shit, and that’s just not fair, is it? It should treat all its employees like shit.

    • shreddakj 2.1

      This. Perhaps insider just wants the world to be a social-darwinist neo-liberal haven where people fight tooth and claw for things. No one should have any nice things unless they fought for them!

  3. RedBaron 3

    I imagine that Murray’s not so hidden agenda is to get rid of career diplomats that have the skills to serve our country well.
    He will then replace the bulk of them with political appointments of his cronies and mates. When you see the conditions and perks that will of course go with his mate’s jobs – the allowances we currently pay will look like pocket money.
    So stop defending how well the job is currently done, he won’t listen to that, and go onto the attack to point out how poorly it will be done by muzza’s mate from the back country collecting bribes whilst he’s on the job.

  4. fatty 4

    “For diplomats’ partners, that usually means giving up their work and income. If there’s no compensation for that, then diplomats won’t be able to go.”

    This is neoliberal bullshit that I would expect to read on whaleoil. If they are worried about their families then they can stay in NZ and get a factory job….$13 per hour and 4 weeks off.
    Don’t justify excessive pay for an easy job (yes, its a very easy job).
    I will do it for a quarter of the pay, then we could spend the money on preventing poverty.

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