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New numbers corroborate long-stading PSA positions

November 14, 2008

Embargoed until 9:30am 14 November 2008

New numbers on public service corroborate long-standing PSA positions

"Thirteen of 36 departments have become smaller or shown no change": Brenda Pilott

Wellington-The Public Service Association today welcomed new numbers on the public service, released in an annual report from the State Services Commission. The numbers, to the year ending in June, show the smallest rate of growth in eight years and some warning signs.

"These numbers reinforce much of what the PSA's been saying all along," said national secretary Brenda Pilott. "The public service is showing restraint. Thirteen of 36 departments have become smaller or shown no change, and public service growth is the smallest since the study began.

"It's also important to note that salary increases in the public service are significantly below those in health and education, and slightly below those in the private sector," she said.

In the year ending June 30, 2008, there were 43,539 full-time-equivalent workers in the public service. That's an increase of 3.6%. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has consistently ranked New Zealand's public service as smaller than the average in industrialised democracies.

Between 2003 and 2008, the growth in public service and workforce overall has been almost identical: 12.2% in the public service versus 12% overall. On a regional basis, the South Island had the highest rate of growth (6.1%), followed by Auckland (5.7%) and Wellington (4.5%); the remainder of the North Island shrank by 1.3% and employment overseas by 7.7%.

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But the report also corroborates some long-standing PSA concerns. Fourteen of 32 departments that responded to the survey report difficulties in recruitment and retention. The State Services Commission says, this "has resulted in higher workloads or increased pressure on staff."

Brenda Pilott said this is borne out by statistics on sick leave. In the year to 30 June 2008, the average sick leave grew by almost a full day, from 6.5 days in 2007 to 7.3 in 2008.

"Public servants tell us they're feeling more pressure at work, especially in the 13 departments that aren't growing," she said. "Increases in sick leave are canaries in the mine-early warning signs of growing stress at work We were encouraged by our meeting yesterday with Prime Minister-designate John Key, and see these figures as more reasons to continue to work with Mr Key to avoid deep job cuts."

The PSA has 57,000 members in the public service, NGOs, local government and the health and education sectors.


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