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Got yourself in a tight spot overseas? Just call 0800

23 February 2012

Got yourself in a tight spot overseas? Don’t worry, just call 0800

Sacking diplomats and contracting out support work could impact on New Zealand’s interests overseas and leave citizens in trouble abroad without adequate support, says the PSA and the FSA, the two unions representing staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Over 300 jobs are set to go as the Ministry looks to save millions of dollars due to the Government’s direction to save money.

“It’s difficult to see how sacking hundreds of capable staff, including diplomats, is going to advance New Zealand’s interests. These are the professionals we send overseas to build relationships and open doors to new markets,” says PSA Assistant National Secretary Jeff Osborne.

“There’s a risk that such severe job cuts and planned closure of some embassies will damage our interests overseas.”

“Unions received a consultation document a short time before staff. The changes proposed are wide and deep and need careful consideration. What we’ll be looking for in the consultation document is – when the New Zealand public and businesses need help – will there be staff available to respond to their needs as professionally in the future as they do now?

“We know that savings are being required. But will this make for better foreign policy and trade outcomes? Opening new markets for exporters is one the few realistic economic policy levers available to the Government. And MFAT is proposing to cut 63 frontline positions? It doesn’t stack up, says Jeff Osborne.

“In addition, over 240 support staff are part of the proposed reduction, both locally employed staff and corporate staff from the Ministry. These are the people who get New Zealand nationals out of disaster, war and terrorist zones,” says Jeff Osborne.

“They use the clout of the New Zealand Government when citizens are taken into custody abroad and they assist bereaved and distressed families when New Zealanders die overseas. Do New Zealanders really want these roles contracted out? I don’t think so. They want people on the ground working in their best interests.

“No one is saying efficiencies can’t be made, but they must be well considered. Will dumping staff and risking a cheapened contracted out model for services result in New Zealand looking second-rate overseas?

“Staff are open to changes which will improve the Ministry’s effectiveness and bring about the best outcomes for New Zealand, but this looks like another example of a chief executive who’s been set an impossible task – make it work better with less - a lot less.

“Foreign policy is about influence and relationships; it’s not a business and can’t be measured as one,” says Jeff Osborne.

ENDS

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