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National muzzles public servants

Grant Robertson
State Services Spokesperson

30 June 2009 Media Statement
National muzzles public servants

It is outrageous that the rights of public servants to participate in the rally at Parliament today in support of pay equity have been muzzled, Grant Robertson, State Services Spokesperson said.

“Public Servants are well aware of their duty to work for the Government of the day, and the limitations imposed on them by the Code of Conduct. But that does not mean that they have no rights to participate in protests or rallies,” Grant Robertson said.

“Advice provided to staff at the Department of Labour actively discouraged them from participating in the rally. An email to staff states ‘the attendance of Departmental staff at the rally in whatever capacity, may therefore call into question our role as public servants serving the Government of the day’.

“While it may not be appropriate for staff directly involved in the disestablishment of the Pay and Employment Equity Unit to attend the rally, the vast majority of the Department of Labour staff should have been able to attend as they wished.

“The National Government came into office claiming that it wanted to de-politicise the public service and treat public servants with professionalism, but we have seen quite the opposite from them.

“They have forced departments to hire Purchase Advisors hand-picked by Bill English who report directly to Ministers. They have even dictated that certain words are not to be used by departments. This is dangerous territory.

“Many public servants will feel strongly about the removal of the Pay and Employment Equity Unit, especially as it affects staff in essential areas where reviews were under way, such as school support staff and social workers at Child Youth and Family.

“Tony Ryall, as State Services Minister needs to uphold the rights of public servants as citizens, and show some faith in their professionalism, and support their right to engage in the political process,” Grant Robertson said.


Please find attached a copy of the email sent to DOL staff today

From: Brian Sage
Sent: Monday, 29 June 2009 5:25 p.m.
To: * DoL all users
Subject: Political neutrality and being a public servant

There have been some enquiries as to whether it is appropriate for Department staff to attend the CTU-organised demonstration on Pay and Employment Equity on Wednesday 1 July at lunchtime.

Guidance on this issue is provided by the SSC. It stresses the need to avoid situations that might impair the relationship between public servants and the Government we serve. For example, it would not be appropriate for Departmental officials to make public comment on the closure of the Pay and Employment Equity Unit. Senior officials, including those closely associated with particular functions and policies (such as Pay and Employment Equity in this case) need to pay specific attention to such situations and actively avoid them.

The situation for other staff in respect to Wednesday’s rally also requires careful attention. Attendance at such a demonstration may well be perceived as crossing the line by criticising a decision of the Government. The attendance of Departmental staff at the rally in whatever capacity, may therefore call into question our role as public servants serving the Government of the day.

I am happy to clarify any aspects of this communication and answer any other queries on the matter.

Brian Sage
Deputy Secretary - Corporate
Department of Labour | Te Tari Mahi

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