PSA to Government: Budget shows promise but more courage needed

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The Labour-led Government’s first Budget shows promise, the PSA says - but there are still many in the public and community service who will wonder when their turn is coming.

"Overall, we are heartened by this Government’s approach and the priorities it has signalled for the future," PSA National Secretaries Erin Polaczuk and Glenn Barclay says.

"In particular, we are happy to see money allocated for pay rises for some PSA members who have struggled for too long under a pointless resourcing and salary cap.

"It was good to hear Minister of Finance Grant Robertson specifically mention the need to rebuild public services to the standard that New Zealanders need and deserve.

"This has been the PSA’s position for some years, and we are glad to have a Government that agrees."

The PSA especially welcomes the emphasis on frontline services, including:

  • more probation officers, and a firm commitment to increasing prison capacity - which will make prisons safer for our members who work there, and allow them to carry out crucial rehabilitation work
  • more staff for DOC and Customs
  • specific allocations for remuneration in the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Social Development and social workers at Oranga Tamariki
  • recognition in the form of extra cash for ministries that have struggled to do their work - DOC, MBIE, Courts, Ministry of Culture and Heritage, frontline housing services at MSD
  • acknowledgement that frontline employment services at MBIE have been under pressure, and confirmation of more labour inspectors and more money for mediation services.

However, Mr Barclay and Ms Polaczuk say the Budget does not specifically address 10 years of pay freezes and generations of gender pay discrimination - both of which have hit PSA members hard.

"This Budget will address some of the areas of biggest need but given the level of forecast surpluses, we would have liked to have seen more.

"Additional funding for health should cover population changes and existing cost pressures, but there is nothing left to expand services into areas of great need - and nothing for pay equity or wage increases for hard-working employees.

"Indeed, we are disappointed to see there is no specific contingency allocation for Equal Pay.

"It remains an ‘unquantified risk’, when there are specific claims already raised and unions want clarity around whether settlements will be funded.

"And given that closing the gender pay gap in the core public service was a central commitment for this government we would have expected to see money dedicated to this.

"We know this Budget represents a first step, and there are nine years of National underspending to remedy.

"We encourage the government to build on what it’s started."