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Defence Force letters insulting and insensitive

21 May 2013 MEDIA STATEMENT

Defence Force letters insulting and insensitive

Defence Force letters sent to personnel being made redundant under the Government’s botched civilianisation project were insensitive and insulting, says Phil Goff, Labour’s Defence spokesperson.

Mr Goff today released copies of the letters obtained under the Official Information Act.

“These letters were sent to 315 servicemen and women as a direct result of the Government’s decision to make cuts and find savings of up to $400 million a year. The Government planned to make 1400 experienced military personnel redundant and to fill their positions with cheaper civilian workers.

“The letters were drafted at Defence Force HQ and sent out over the objections of staff who were “shocked at their obviously controversial and unfeeling tone”. The Auditor General criticised these letters and the civilianisation project, saying it “led to a drop in morale and an increase in attrition resulting in reduced capability”.[i]

“I have finally received copies of the letters, after an OIA request submitted in February. It’s no wonder they did not wish to have the letters released.

“The tone of the letters lacks any sensitivity towards the long serving men and women who were learning for the first time that they were losing their jobs.

“The wording is formulaic, using phrases such as “you were assessed as minimally meets requirements” and “you were assessed as low potential” or had “low commitment to service.”

“That’s no way to treat people. Personnel who had served competently and loyally deserve much better than that. No wonder the whole civilianisation project was so bad for morale, which fell to an all-time low. It also pushed attrition to a record rate.

“The Defence Force owned up after the event admitting the “letters in some cases were telling good people they were bad” (see the Auditor General’s report).

“But the National Government has never apologised for the way good people were treated because of its desperation to save money and make cuts – and it stands condemned for that,” says Phil Goff.

ends

[i] Auditor General’s report “New Zealand Defence Force: The Civilianisation Project” – January 2013

Attached: Defence_Force_letters.pdf

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