Not leading by example


A law firm specialising in employment ought to lead by example in dealing with its own staff.

If it was fined for unfairly dismissing a worker it would lose the confidence of its clients.

So what happens when a union is fined for unfairly dismissing a worker?

New Zealand’s largest union has been forced to pay $5000 for unfairly firing a sick Wellington worker. . . 

”A fair and reasonable employer could have investigated better by persevering to engage Ms Kindell and assemble all relevant information from the appropriate medical sources before making a final decision.” . . .

A fair and reasonable employer could have and the court obviously thinks the PSA should have.

That the union didn’t could make it an unfair and unreasonable employer.

It could provide more evidence for employers who complain about the difficulty in complying with the process required to discipline or dismiss staff.

This case also gives more evidence to support my theory that unions often take a jaundiced view of employers because they judge them by their own low standards.

Unions are specialists in employment law and employee rights and ought to above reproach in dealing with their own staff.

It can’t help PSA members have confidence in their union when it doesn’t lead by example.

DOC spread too thinly


The Public Service Association is using a survey showing public support for conservation to criticise funding cuts.

A Department of Conservation annual survey of 3,885 people on their attitudes to conservation shows that 85% of New Zealanders consider that conservation is important to them and 77% believe that spending money on conservation is a good investment in the prosperity and wellbeing of New Zealanders.

“DOC staff will undoubtedly welcome that vote of confidence in the important work that they do, but clearly it’s the government which needs to be convinced,” says PSA National Secretary Brenda Pilott.

DOC has been one of the hardest hit by government funding cuts to the public sector, resulting in the loss of around 140 jobs in the past year.

Brenda Pilott says there looks to be no end in sight.

“As the government slashes another $1 billion from departmental budgets this year, DOC is having to embark on yet another review to find an additional $9 million in savings.”

“Funding cuts are already impacting on DOC’s operations and it’s ironic that at a time when the public is saying it values conservation, the government seems bent on running it down,” she says.

I’m surprised the number of people who regard conservation as important isn’t higher but that isn’t an argument for increased funding.

Part of the problem is the large area of the conservation estate which grew considerably under Labour from 1999 – 2008.

Land surrendered from pastoral leases under tenure review was put into DOC’s care without proper regard for the cost of looking after it.

Some of that land has high conservation values but a lot of it doesn’t but DOC is responsible for looking after all of it with an overstretched budget.

The end result is the department, and it’s budget, are spread too thinly.

The solution isn’t more money but less land.

We need to have a discussion about how much land the state should own and that with low conservation values should be taken from the DOC estate to enable the Department to concentrate on the areas most in need of its oversight and care.

If they didn’t complain then . . .


. . . why are they complaining now?

The Public Service Association about restructuring that is because as Trans Tasman points out:

There’s a bit of a reorganisation of Govt agencies under way. Before the election National promised not to undertake any “radical” shake up of the state sector and has been attacked by Labour and the Public Service Association for breaching its promise.

But all the government has suggested is a bit of minor tweaking – combining Archives NZ, Statistics NZ, Land Information NZ, and the National Library into one Ministry.

That doesn’t strike me as radical in isolation and is even less so when compared with what Labour did:

Labour merged the Department of Courts back into the Ministry of Justice. It created the Ministry of Economic Development out of the Ministry of Commerce and a couple of small agencies such as tourism. It built the new mega Ministry of Social Development out of the old Ministry of Social Policy, Work and Income NZ, and some bits of other social services.

Special Education was merged into the Ministry of Education. The whole Department of Building and Housing was built out of the old Ministry of Housing and some parts of the Ministry of Economic Development and Housing. NZ Land Transport Safety Authority was moved into a new beefed up Ministry of Transport. You get the idea.

None of these were fought by the supposedly politically neutral Public Service Association with anything like the fire which National’s fairly modest proposals has attracted.

Supposedly neutral are the operative words which answer the question I started with.

They didn’t complain then because the changes were done by a Labour-led government and they’re complaining now because the proposals for much more minor changes are coming from a National-led one.

The cost of bureaucracy


Does anyone ever say, “when I grow up I”m going to be a bureaucrat?”

It’s not that we don’t need them, theirs is an essential role in the smooth running of any large organisation. But you can have too much of a good thing and we’ve definitely gone beyond what’s necessary in the public service.

As John Key pointed out in a recent speech  to the Public Service Association:

Since 2000, the number of teachers in state primary and secondary schools has grown by 12%. But over the same period, the number of people employed in the various education bureaucracies has grown by 40%. . . Since 2000, the number of nurses and doctors employed in district health boards has grown by 28%. But over the same period, the number of people employed in the Ministry of Health has grown by 51%.  . .


Since 2002, the service delivery part of MSD, namely Work and Income, and Child Youth and Family, has grown by 23%. But over the same period, the policy analysis, research, and corporate units of MSD have grown by 109%.The Quarterly Employment Survey shows a similar picture over the whole of the state sector – the number of jobs in central government administration has grown faster than those in the rest of the state sector, and faster than the number of jobs in the economy as a whole.


The inbalance between front line workers and bureaucrats, and taxpayer funded employees and those in the private sector, comes at a considerable cost and not just in wages.

Gerry Brownlee  points out it’s not just wages:

In the past five years Labour has overseen an increase in the amount of extra floor space leased for bureaucrats in central Wellington equivalent to almost four Te Papas, says National’s State Services spokesman, Gerry Brownlee.“How can people have faith and trust in Labour’s stewardship of the public service when it has overseen an increase in the amount of extra floor space leased for bureaucrats in the past five years that equates to an additional 13.2 hectares?”


. . . Mr Brownlee says the extra floor space has not come cheaply, and the government now pays around $106 million a year in rent.

That’s the direct cost, there’s also the impact it has on the market, pushing up property prices rents and contributing to inflation.

Kiwiblog lists some of the bigger increases:

  1. Human Rights Commission up 178%
  2. Commerce Commission up 176%
  3. Education Ministry up 155%
  4. Social Development Ministry up 122%
  5. Transport up 117%
  6. Environment Ministry up 110%

In absolute terms the IRD has grown by 25,000 square metres, Education Ministry by 13,000 square metres, Labour Department by almost 7,000 square metres, ACC by 6,000 square metres, NZQA by 5,000 square metres, Justice Ministry by 5,000 square metres.

Congratulations to Treasury who reduced their office space by 2,000 square metres or 18%.

Won’t it be a great day when schools and hopsitals have everything they need and a government department has to run a cake stall for a new computer?

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