Forced Redundancy Long Overdue for NSW Public Service

photodune-10126144-old-cutting-tools-mThank God. The  Public Sector Employment and Management Amendment Bill, which passed last week, finally stops the nonsense of carrying unattached public servants with no work to do.

And it is a nonsense that we have seen as part of our process and productivity business over the past 2 decades. The idea that someone who has no work and refuses to move from Orange can’t be sacked because the same agency has a job at Parramatta is, well, a rort.

We’ve seen managers, on a manager’s salary, photocopying for 8 years because of it.

And the Industrial Court’s proposed approach in response to a union challenge essentially strengthened that nonsense (my emphasis):

“The Court proposed an excess employee could not be made redundant as long as
‘useful work’ of any kind exists anywhere across the entire public sector.

“Under the Court’s broad interpretation, ‘useful work’ would include all work
undertaken on a temporary, casual and contractual basis – it essentially meant a
return to the no forced redundancy policy.

And let’s be honest. Even after the reform people have 3 months with no work to search within the public sector. Where else in the economy would people be carried for 3 months with no meaningful work to do?

There is absolutely no justification in public policy terms for keeping people that have no work .

That is especially true for the vast majority of public servants who do not  need to provide fearless and frank policy advice to Ministerial offices. Oddly enough, until now it has been easier to sack the senior types who do provide that advice (albeit with a hefty payout) than other workers who, in public policy terms, do not need protection from political decisionmakers.

This problem has been central to one of the greatest policy failures of the past three decades: the expansion of public sector wages, conditions and numbers at the expense of ordinary taxpayers. Average public sector earnings have  exceeded the average private sector earnings since the 1990s. Rates of increase have accelerated in the public sector compared to the private sector. And public sector superannuation and leave provisions have always been better than the private sector.

The Schott Report  also found lower level public sector workers are overpaid compared with equivalent private sector workers. This matches our experience of work quantification and grading in the public and private sectors.

Consider this:

The largest element of state government operating budgets is their expenditures on public servant wages, superannuation and other entitlements. In 2008-09, states allocated more than $78bn towards gross employee expenses, representing about 46 per cent of total general government sector spending.

By comparison, $43bn was spent for the same purposes in 2000-01. This implies an increase in spending on state public sector workers of 78 per cent over the period, or an average of 8 per cent a year.

It’s been a bipartisan failure – though more substantial when the ALP is in office, partly because of a big government bias, and partly because their union membership is now dominated by public sector workers. About 41% of public sector workers are unionised.

Because we work in this field I can sense a book-length post coming on. This is a big issue. It is a big equity issue, because over the past decades just who is “privileged”, who is an “insider”, who has opportunity, security and advantage has changed. There is now a vertical split in society between public sector workers and private employees and small business owners, and it is changing politics.

More later.


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