Sharp rise in turnover shows public service pay must rise or services will suffer
The shocking rise in turnover in the public service as revealed in the annual public service workforce data is a huge wake up call for the Government warns the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.
Annual figures released by the Public Service Commission shows average turnover rocketing to a historic high - 17.3% of workers left the public service in the 2021/2022 year.
"This is simply shocking - in any business if nearly one in five of your workers left in any one year you would be asking some serious questions about your pay and working conditions," said PSA National Secretary Kerry Davies.
"Some of this is clearly pent up turnover post-COVID, but it underlines how far in a tight labour market public service pay has fallen behind the private sector."
The data shows median salaries rising 3.3% compared to a 7.1% rise in the private sector.
"The good news is that pay rises to date have been weighted to those earning low and middle incomes. The pay of the lowest paid increased by 3.3% and the pay of the highest paid increased by 2%.
"But cost of living pressures still mean reasonable pay adjustments are more urgent than ever.
"The Government is not blind to this problem. Even the Defence Minister admitted this week that it was failing to retain enough NZDF staff because pay is better in the private sector.
"People are leaving the public service for that reason and many vital jobs are not being filled - just yesterday we learned that DOC is struggling to recruit for an important position protecting our biodiversity in Westland.
"What this all means for New Zealanders is that services are suffering. We know of cases of burnout, of excessive hours being worked just to keep delivering the same number of services. This is across the public service from hospitals through to community corrections.
"We have a very efficient public service in this country of a size comparable to similar economies like the UK and Australia. The challenge is ensuring we keep providing the services New Zealanders need when the private sector is attracting so many skilled people from critical areas in the public service."
Overall numbers employed in the public service fell by 1.2% in the year to 30 June 2022 - 700 fewer workers in total partly due to the unwinding of recruitment for the pandemic. There were significant increases in important areas such as servicing new immigration settings to attract skilled workers, front line learning support specialists and those helping improve environment standards and prepare us for climate change.
"We know the National Party has its sights on cutting public sector workers to fund its tax cuts for those who least need them. Just yesterday leader Christopher Luxon talked about ‘14,000 bureaucrats in Wellington.’ Today, we repeat our call on Mr Luxon to come clean on the price New Zealanders will have to pay by way of fewer vital services. What is his plan? He owes that to the electorate now," said Kerry Davies.