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Call For Independent Remuneration Board

12 December 2007

Mark Repeats Call For Independent Remuneration Board To Set Defence Pay

New Zealand First defence spokesperson Ron Mark has written to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence calling for the establishment of an independent remuneration board to be set up to assess and set pay levels for the Defence Force.

“Despite Phil Goff’s claim that such a move is unnecessary, New Zealand First believes that it is time for a fundamental change in the way that pay, allowances and conditions of service are set for defence personnel, in a way that would allow Defence Force chiefs to advocate freely before an independent board, for the board to make a determination and for the government to make the appropriation based on the recommendation of the board,” said Mr Mark.

11 December 2007

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister
Executive Wing

Dear Prime Minister

Re; Defence Force remuneration and conditions of service

The decision of the Chief of Defence Force to provide a $45,000 incentive payment in order to attract navy Marine Technicians to re-engage for 3 years highlights a fundamental weakness in the way in which conditions of service and remuneration levels are derived for our Defence Force personnel, which I believe challenges us to think differently about how this issue is treated.

It has long been New Zealand First’s belief that the only way in which we are going to be able to attract, but more importantly retain, highly experienced Defence Force personnel is by ensuring that they receive realistic and rewarding pay rates and conditions of service. This is increasingly important in times of low unemployment and good economic growth when the civil sector seeks to poach or entice Defence Force personnel out of the service.

If we are to give our Defence Force a fighting chance in such a competitive environment we need to give them a more effective tool through which they can argue their case for increased funding in order to effect pay increases that they believe are necessary. The current situation, whereby the Chief of Defence Force is required by statute to have regard to what’s fair to the taxpayer, is unacceptable in that it effectively prevents him arguing wholesomely, passionately and independently: he is in effect fighting with one hand behind his back.

It also needs to be recognised that Defence Force personnel do not have union representation as the Police, teachers and nurses do, representation which also has available to it more coercive powers through which to advance an argument or apply leverage. Given that, Defence is at an even greater disadvantage and therefore is more able to be ignored by the government of the day.

New Zealand First believes that it is time that we took a more fundamental approach to the way in which we evaluate the work Defence Force personnel are required to undertake, the responsibilities they bear, the impact that the peculiarities of their service has on their families, and therefore how we determine appropriate levels of remuneration and conditions of service.

We have always believed that the way to do this was the establishment of an independent armed forces pay review board, and we now believe that such a board could be set up within the New Zealand Remuneration Authority.

We accept that this might require some adjustment to the statutes in order to extend their brief, but we believe it is absolutely paramount that such an authority be given the powers to examine the needs and set the levels of remuneration for Defence Force personnel in the same manner that they do for judges and MPs.

It is not desirable that the Defence Force has a union, but it is desirable that they have an independent body to assess their salaries and allowances.

If looking for an example one could look at the Australian Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal, set up in 1984 to “enable the pay and allowances …to be determined having regard to the special nature of defence force service”, just as I have described above.

I look forward to your reply.


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