Ministry of Health staff will get details of a proposal to cut jobs by 25% today as reports surface of job cuts at the Ministry for Social Development (Image:  Archi Banal)
Ministry of Health staff will get details of a proposal to cut jobs by 25% today as reports surface of job cuts at the Ministry for Social Development (Image: Archi Banal)

The BulletinApril 4, 2024

Scale of public service job cuts becomes clearer as restructure plans roll out

Ministry of Health staff will get details of a proposal to cut jobs by 25% today as reports surface of job cuts at the Ministry for Social Development (Image:  Archi Banal)
Ministry of Health staff will get details of a proposal to cut jobs by 25% today as reports surface of job cuts at the Ministry for Social Development (Image: Archi Banal)

Ministry of Health staff were summoned to meetings yesterday that will continue today. Reports suggest the Ministry of Social Development will also announce restructure plans to staff today, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

Ministry of Health staff to hear about job cuts proposal today

An all-staff meeting will take place today at the Ministry of Health today where Director-General of Health Dr Diana Sarfati will release an organisational change proposal. Consultation with staff will run for three weeks, with final decisions made clear by June 30. As The Post’s Rachel Thomas reports, a “grim feeling” has settled over the ministry as meeting room walls have been papered over, and reports to date suggest 180 staff, or 25% of the Ministry’s current workforce, could lose their jobs. Public Service Commission data indicates 730 people are employed by the Ministry. The proposed reduction would see staff levels back down around levels last seen in the early 2000s. The 2021 spike would be attributable to the pandemic, and there has been a transfer of some staff over the Te Whatu Ora Health NZ following the disestablishment of district health boards.

FTE Numbers – Ministry of Health (Source: Public Service Commission)

More medical doctors, not spin doctors

The government is stressing that the cuts would not impact frontline services, with prime minister Christopher Luxon saying his government wants more “medical doctors, not more spin doctors”. “Spin doctors” is a common coverall for a range of work done by communications staff who are the frequent target of accusations of “wasteful spending.” As Ben Thomas wrote in The Post last week, cutting government spending is more complicated than the simple headlines and soundbites about waste suggest. “As evidenced by the political optics disaster of disability carer allowance restrictions, ministers are not in the weeds of the detail of most operational matters,” he writes. The intricate-sounding “line by line” reviews often don’t reveal hidden details. Where there is waste — programmes that have run their course, for example — it often needs to be identified by people familiar with the work of the agency in question.

Cutting back on coffee not enough at Ministry for Social Development

Stuff’s Glenn McConnell reports this morning that the Ministry for Social Development is about to announce a proposal for job cuts to staff. The ministry made headlines a few weeks ago with its bids to save money by cutting down on the kinds of coffee and tea available at work. These kinds of measures are often an opening gambit, and as McConnell reports, sources suggest saving targets have not been met, and job cuts at the country’s second-largest ministry are likely. Job cuts or offers of voluntary redundancy, have already been announced at several ministries, including the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Ministry for Pacific Peoples. Staff at Oranga Tamariki will likely find out where they stand later this month following trips around the country by chief executive Chappie Te Kani to talk to staff. As The Post’s Anna Whyte reported, Te Kani paid for the necessary flights out of his own pocket.

We may lose some of our ‘best and brightest’ overseas

Speaking to RNZ, public servants at the Ministry of Social Development have expressed anger at the continued hiring of senior roles, while a staff member at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment “was angry and annoyed that senior leadership and management roles did not seem to be affected.” Both people spoken to by RNZ suggest stress levels are high. “I am the main earner, between myself and my partner and we rent … The moment I found out, my mind goes straight to calculating how long I can survive before we’re in the s***,” one of them said. Another said moves to Australia could be on the cards, contributing to the emergent “brain drain” narrative. Minister for social development and employment Louise Upston has admitted that New Zealand could lose some of its “best and brightest” overseas while in recession but said, “We’re hoping to ensure that people will see New Zealand is getting back on track and they do have a great future here.”

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