Domestic violence and workplace productivity

April 3rd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The PSA commissioned some unusual, but interesting, research – on the impact of domestic violence on workplace productivity.

The executive summary:

Domestic violence is a workplace issue. It is estimated to cost employers in New Zealand at least
$368 million for the June year 2014. …

Employment is a key pathway out of domestic violence. The body of research about domestic
violence over the past 30 years finds conclusively that staying in employment is critical to reducing
the effects of violence. Security of employment enables those affected by domestic violence to
maintain domestic and economic stability, in this way assisting them to find a pathway out of
violence and to successfully re-build their lives.

This makes sense. If a partner is not working, they are more likely to remain in a domestic situation with violence as they’ll be nervous about leaving their partner if they are reliant on them for the household income.

Employers have the potential of productivity gains from implementing workplace protections that
support victims of domestic violence. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that as
well as the potential for breaking the cycle of domestic violence, the introduction of workplace
protections for people affected by domestic violence both saves employers costs (recruitment,
retention, re-training, health and safety) and increases productivity.

I’m not quite sure what workplaces can do (assuming the partner does not work there also) except generally be sensitive to any staff who experience domestic violence.

For every woman whose experience of violence is prevented as result of the workplace protections
in a particular year, an average of $3,371 in production-related costs can be avoided. This number
is conservative as outlined in the body of the report.

So what do they recommend:

  • That employers create and implement tailored domestic violence human resources policies
    that can be integrated with existing health and safety policies
  • That an on-line induction module be prepared that is freely available to all organisations
    which includes knowledge about domestic violence
  • To work with peak bodies to motivate take up of existing programmes focused on training to
    recognise, respond to and reduce domestic violence
  • Based on successful overseas practice, develop and implement a national policy that entitles
    victims of domestic violence to up to 10 days special leave

All violent crimes are bad, but I have to say I have an extra level of malice towards those who commit domestic violence. Your home is meant to be the one place where you are safe.

Tags: ,

Psychometric testing best for recruitment not restructuring

September 10th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Government agencies spent more than $1.5 million on personality and ability testing in the past year – and some departments may be using the results to swing the axe on employees.

Employment lawyers and psychologists say the increasing use of psychometric testing as part of restructures and redundancies in the public service could be illegal.

I think psychometric testing can be very useful when recruiting candidates, and have seen it used often very usefully.

However I am very skeptical that it is a good idea to use it for decision making on redundancies among existing staff. Employers should know enough about their current staff that they can make decisions around restructuring without psychometric testing.

Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott said it was calling on the State Services Commissioner to halt the use of testing for restructures.

“When you’re restructuring, you are dealing with people who are your staff. They will have had performance reviews – there should be very little you find out about that person from a psychometric test you don’t already know.”

But a State Services Commission spokeswoman disagreed, saying: “Such testing, in order to obtain a full picture of a candidate, is a legitimate tool alongside others, such as interviews and reference checking, to come to a considered decision on employing the best people.”

I’m with the PSA on this one. The SSC argument applies well for recruitment but restructuring is different.

Tags: , ,

Will unions highlight this bad employer fined for unfairly sacking a bad employer?

October 11th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports on an employer:

… been forced to pay $5000 for unfairly firing a sick Wellington worker. 

Ms Kindell had worked at the association’s Wellington office since 2005, but was dismissed after several extended periods of sick leave on pay, which included being hospitalised eight times.

Before dismissing her, the association made several attempts to assess whether Ms Kindell could return to work, most of which never took place following disagreements.

But the authority said the association should have tried harder before dismissing Ms Kindell without assessing whether she could return to work.

”A fair and reasonable employer could have investigated better by persevering to engage Ms Kindell and assemble all relevant information from the appropriate medical sources before making a final decision.”

So who is this bad employer who unfairly sacked a staff member for being sick? Will the unions run a name and shame campaign?

Well, as it is NZ’s largest union – the PSA, I guess not.

Tags:

Non story of the week

March 14th, 2012 at 6:46 pm by David Farrar

This might be the biggest beatup of the year. TV3 reports:

Labour says a promise by John Key in 2008 shows he has misled the public over job cuts in the public service.

3 News has dug out never seen before footage of Mr Key promising “no job cuts” to the Public Service Association Conference back in 2008.

In fact in a response to a question that day Mr Key argued selling assets didn’t make for a better economy.

“Nor am I hell bent on selling assets, actually in the world of making the boat go faster, actually, I don’t think selling assets actually makes the boat go faster.”

So a speech four years ago before the global economic crisis and before the surplus disappeared into a decade of deficits is seen as a “broken promise” today. Note that Labour and the PSA supplied the video the day before Key’s speech setting out change tomorrow.

The global economic crisis meant National reduced public sector jobs in the first term -just as id cancelled further tax cuts also. Is the PSA demanding National should have kept their tax cuts?

And most of all, National got re-elected in 2011 with explicit policies that there would be asset part-sales, and further cost cutting in the state sector. So how one can claim a 2011 election manifesto is trumped by a 2008 speech, I don’t know.

UPDATE: TV3 inform me that no one supplied them with the video, it was from their library archive.

Tags: ,

Will the Empire strike back?

March 7th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

Bureaucrats are biting back, with plans under way to march against any further state sector cuts.

Beleaguered public servants are anxiously awaiting Prime Minister John Key’s plans for the state sector, expected to be announced in a keynote address next week.

If the reform involves further privatisation and job cuts – more than 2500 jobs have been slashed in the past three years – it is likely protest marches and rallies will follow.

Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott said the “mood has changed” among public servants, who were now talking about action and taking to social media.

A march would have echoes of mass protests in 1988 against the State Sector Act, which reshaped the public service, she said. “Public servants are starting to bite back – finally – after three years of cuts.

“People have been a bit resigned but now patience is wearing out. The mood has changed. People are now talking about opposing further cuts.

It is a tough time for the PSA. They are one of the more rational unions, in my experience. And having a shrinking state sector is hard for those impacted.

But I think it is worth stressing the fiscal environment we are in. The deficit has been running at around $10b a year. That is several times larger than the cost of the entire civil service. There is a path back to surplus over the next three years, but it is a fragile one.

One just has to look at the UK, Ireland, Greece etc to see what will happen to the public sector if there is not an end to deficits and growing debt.

Of course the Government could scrap high cost programmes such as Working for Families, subsidized childcare or interest free student loans, to reduce the deficit. But I suspect the PSA and its members would not be too keen on that either.

Some of course will advocate that we try and tax our way back to surplus. Apart from the fact that increased taxes will lessen economic growth, I’d point out that overall tax revenues are basically on the track announced by Labour in its 2008 budget. The tax changes since then have over a four year period been broadly fiscally neutral. National actually cancelled two stages of its planned tax cuts due to the deficit, so it has been quite balanced – both canceling tax cuts and reducing spending.

Also we have to allow for efficiency gains from technology. If a new computer system for IRD means it needs 1,500 fewer jobs, then that is something that will be good to do – even it is tough on those affected.

Tags: ,

Not even PSA backs Goff

August 6th, 2011 at 11:09 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

The public service union has weighed in behind spy boss Warren Tucker as Labour leader Phil Goff continues to attack his recollection of secret briefings.

Mr Goff disputes the accuracy of a report signed off by Dr Tucker showing that he briefed the Opposition leader on an investigation into whether Israeli backpackers who fled after the February 22 Christchurch earthquake might be spies.

Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott said using public servants to score political points was “ill-advised”, especially in an election year.

“Public servants are required to keep their politics out of their job and their job out of politics. That means they cannot respond publicly to criticism or become embroiled in political rows.”

I was listening to a Labour MP talk on this issue on the radio yesterday and he was very luke warm in his defence of Goff. Rather than defend Goff, it was more “Wow, what a mystery this is”.

I don’t imagine there is anyone who really wants to say Goff’s memory is more credible than a written file note made at the time four months ago. But Goff continues to insist only he is right and everyone else is wrong.

Tags: , ,

PSA fail

April 8th, 2011 at 8:01 am by David Farrar

Oh dear. Someone at the PSA is going to be busy today. They have set up a website where you can create your own billboard, complaining about various “nice to haves” that you think the Government may be cutting. However I doubt they thought through the wisdom of having it unmoderated on their own website.   Some of the billboards I can’t repeat on a family site, but some of the ones I laughed at are:

My thanks to the PSA for such fun reading.

Tags: ,

Great speech by Ryall

October 1st, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

I love this speech by Tony Ryall to the PSA:

The tone of this conference here in Wellington will no doubt stand in stark contrast to that of the Irish public sector union only a few months ago.

In what has been described as a firebrand speech, the union chief demanded his members accept a four year strike ban, a pay freeze following pay cuts, massive redundancies and rationalisations – all of which were agreed with the Irish government earlier in the year.

What is more remarkable is the acceptance by his members and others in the public sector that the global financial crisis and its impact on the Celtic Tiger required such austerity….that is acceptance from the unions other than the secondary teachers union.

After undertaking months of industrial action including marching in the streets, that secondary teachers union there last week decided to finally accept the facts of recession and is joining the wider public sector pay restraint.

Wonderful swipe at the PPTA by implication there. How long is it going to take the PPTA to realise they are not getting free laptop for every teacher?

And then Tony continues:

The United Kingdom is facing the largest peacetime deficit in their history. Public servants earning more than $40,000 are facing a two year wage freeze, and performance-related pay for civil servants will be cut by 2/3rds.

Just last week the Governor of the Bank of England urged unions to accept public sector reforms and job cuts by warning that anything short of tackling the UK’s Budget deficit would “fail the next generation.”

In Italy the Government passed an austerity package of around $50 billion of saving which includes a freeze on public sector wages.

In Ireland the Government has cut public service salaries – including doctors, nurses, and teachers – by up to 15%.

Greeces socialist government has frozen public sector wages and pensions for the next three years.

In Hungary they plan to cut the cost of public servants pay by 15% and freeze government spending.

The Portugese government has put a hiring freeze on its civil service, along with a 5% wage cut for top earners in the public sector.

Germany has the strongest economy in Europe.  But the Germans plan  to reduce the number of their federal public servants by 15,000 – or 5% – and cut their salaries by 2.5%.

Canada has frozen wages in the public service for the next two to three years.

Compared to what’s happened internationally, New Zealand’s response has been fair, moderate and pragmatic.

And then Tony goes on to praise the PSA:

I would like to acknowledge the Public Service Association for the constructive and responsible part you have played in employment negotiations to date. You are professional yet determined.

You have sought settlements for your members that recognise the tough financial times we are all in.

While hard fought, those settlements have been responsible, realistic and fair to both parties…often between one and two percent. You’ve also been innovative in your approach to addressing productivity improvement.

Which is another message to the PPTA they are not getting 4%.

Tags: , ,

A smaller public sector

March 18th, 2010 at 6:07 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

State Services Minister Tony Ryall yesterday gave an update on the Government’s “cap of core government administration”.

The number of full-time jobs in core administrative roles fell by 1480 or 3.8 per cent last year to 37,379.

At the same time, said Mr Ryall, 540 full-time equivalent jobs had been added in “key frontline agencies outside the cap”, including Child, Youth and Family, Work and Income, and Community Probation.

“National campaigned to cap the size of the core bureaucracy and we’ve done that. This allows us to free up resources for improving frontline services,” Mr Ryall said.

After a 50% increase in the size of the public service under Labour, this is a great achievement.

It is so popular than even Phil Goff was trying to have it both ways. On TV last night he was claiming that Labour would also have capped public sector numbers – just not reduced them. Yeah, Right.

“We would have looked at the quality and the need for the staff, it would have been more about capping and not cutting,” says Labour leader Phil Goff.

I wonder what Grant Robertson thought of his leader’s endorsement of National’s policy of capping the number of staff. Maybe Grant could clarify what Labour’s policy now is? I am sure the PSA have been on the phone to him.

At the last election National campaigned on capping core public service jobs, a policy PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott said was “a farce”.

So is Brenda saying Phil Goff is supporting a farce?

“The Government has been cutting, not capping, jobs at a time when unemployment rose to a 10-year high.”

And the Government is borrowing $240 million a week. Private sector jobs create income for the Government, while public sector ones soak up that money. The fewer jobs we have in the private sector, the fewer we can afford in the public sector. This is why economic growth is rather important.

Tags: , , , ,

A productivity commission

March 10th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A productivity commission that will run the ruler over government departments has been given a cautious welcome by the public servants’ union.

Details of how the commission will work have yet to be thrashed out, but Finance Minister Bill English’s office said it would be based on the Australian commission that has operated since 1998.

That body covers the whole economy, but has a specific role in preparing regular reports on efficiency, effectiveness and service delivery in government agencies.

Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott said a similar body in New Zealand would help monitor performance, but would need a clear definition of how state sector productivity should be measured.

Very pleased to see the PSA supportive. The Australian Productivity Commission has played a useful and significant role in growing the Australian economy and has bipartisan support.

The Government is poised to announce the creation of the commission – part of a confidence and supply agreement with ACT – this month.

Mr English’s office said it would support “the goals of higher productivity growth across the economy and improvements in the quality of regulation”.

It would “work closely with and be closely modelled on” the Australian commission, which is a research, advisory and performance monitoring agency that covers economic, social and environmental issues.

Prime Minister John Key said on Monday the commission in New Zealand would be mostly focused on the public sector, suggesting it will play a role in looming reforms. …

Ms Pilott said the commission could fill a gap in how public sector productivity was measured, something the PSA had been lobbying for.

Labour finance spokesman David Cunliffe said there was merit in having a commission, but Labour would want to carefully scrutinise what it was measuring and how.

The commission will not be hugely effective if it is seen as partisan. This does not mean both major parties have to agree with everything the commission does, but it means respect for its work.

Tags: , , ,

Some state sector reform

March 6th, 2010 at 12:14 pm by David Farrar

Emily Watt and Colin Espiner report:

The Government is planning a shake-up of state services, with mergers expected in Internal Affairs, MAF and the science sector.

It is not clear how many jobs will be lost, but “back office” functions such as human resources, IT, payroll and communications are likely to be cut back to avoid duplication.

The Dominion Post has been told there will be three mergers, which are to be announced on Wednesday and will see departments, ministries and agencies folded into each other.

Sources say space has been booked at the National Library to announce the formation of what they are calling a Ministry of Information, which would roll National Library and National Archives into the Internal Affairs Department. It is understood Land Information New Zealand and Statistics had also been considered in that merger.

Oh I would so love to be Minister of Information. That would just be the best title, next to Minister of Propaganda. Imagine the first class treatment you would get in all the despotic regimes around the world, when your business card declares you are the New Zealand Minister of Information.

The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry is also due for a shake-up with the Food Safety Authority, with an annual budget of $99.6m, expected to be brought back under its roof.

The science sector will also come under the scalpel, with the Foundation of Research, Science & Technology and Research, Science & Technology Ministry being merged.

I’m delighted to see even this minor reform as it heads in the right direction. We do not need 200+ state sector CEOs, and 200+ IT systems, 200+ HR systems etc. In my ideal would you would have all agencies grouped within a dozen super-ministries.

Mr Robertson said it appeared Mr Key had broken his pre-election promise not to radically reorganise the public service.

Oh Grant. This is not radical. Three small mergers is a welcome but cautious step. It is such a shame to see Labour oppose every measure to reduce bureaucratic duplication and costs in the state sector. Their sole state sector policy seems to be to borrow and spend more money.

Labour should welcome these changes, as they continue a trend started under Labour to bring smaller agencies together. National went the other way in the 1990s and in hindsight got it wrong. Again it is a pity to see Labour oppose something they should support.

The Public Service Association has not been briefed on the plans, but said it was supportive of the Government “sticking things back together” after several decades of splitting departments up.

Indeed. On this one, I agree with the PSA.

Tags: , , , ,

PSA & SWFU not to merge

October 13th, 2009 at 5:45 pm by David Farrar

Got forwarded an internal union e-mail. Have not seen this issue in the media. The e-mail says:

A message from Paula Scholes, PSA president PSA and SFWU to cease merger talks

The PSA and the SFWU have decided to stop discussing the potential for a merger between our two unions. The primary reason for doing so was the inability of both unions to reach sufficient agreement on the issue of political relationships and affiliations. Both unions have long standing and proud traditions on the issue of political relationships.

The SFWU has a long standing affiliation status with the Labour party, is this week signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Green Party and has explored a formal relationship with the Maori Party. The PSA has an equally strong commitment to remaining non affiliated and independent of political parties.

Both unions have looked at various alternatives to affiliation or non affiliation of the new union, but a jointly acceptable position has not been achieved.

Governance representatives of both unions met four times over the past few months exploring the concept of a merger.

Both unions agree that we have significant areas of common interest and will benefit from working even closer together in the future, especially in the health and NGO sectors. Our important joint campaigns in the disability sector will continue and other joint campaigns are likely to follow.

While it is disappointing that the potential benefits of a merger will not be realised, both unions remain committed to continuing our close and constructive relationship.

The openness with which our potential merger discussions have occurred has done much to strengthen our already close relationship.

Basically they are saying the merger didn’t happen because the SWFU refused to give up affiliation to the Labour Party. They get too many MPs through Labour, to give that up. Their MPs have included Taito Phllip Field, Dave Hereora, Lianne Dalziel and Darien Fenton.

Tags: ,

Praise for the PSA

September 30th, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff blogs:

A shift in the right direction

The news that Treasury is looking to save 30% of costs and increase productivity in the public sector by centralising back office services may surprise some people. …

While the PSA is concerned for the interests of individual staff caught up in the process to centralise these functions, there is sense in bringing back a whole of government approach to much of the states activities, including the back office functions.

All too often unions are seen as instinctively anti-reform, no matter what its merits, and anti anything that may save money.  I’m pleased to see the PSA take a more nuanced position on this issue.

Tags: , ,

Ralston on public service

July 22nd, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Bill Ralston makes easy work of the PSA and Labour:

Erect a stake, pile wood around it as a pyre, tie Treasury Head John Whitehead to it and throw in a match.

The man has committed heresy. He said the public service needed to rethink its approach, trim its fat, move out of its comfort zone and generally get its act together or someone else will come and do it.

Shocking. Dreadful. Appalling.

Next he’ll be advocating that the world is not flat and that the Earth revolves around the sun.

The reactions to that sensible speech were so predictably knee-jerk mid-numbingly stupid.

Of course.

“The groundwork is being laid here for privatisation and further deeper job cuts”, says Labour’s State Services spokesman Grant Robertson.

No it isn’t. Whitehead talked of contracting out some services if it made sense. If a department could get say cheaper legal or accounting services from the private sector, why wouldn’t it look at that option rather than retain or expand its in-house services?

Heresy.

The PSA’s Brenda Pilott chimes in, “We’re amazed Mr Whitehead says we should be privatising public services when bad management in the private sector has created the worst global recession since the Great Depression.”

If this is the PSA’s grasp of economics and world finance then God help its members.

Ms Pilott might be interested to know the recession arose out of the credit crunch brought on by the failure of the US subprime mortgage market. Basically a relatively small group of bankers went greedily mad in a largely unregulated market.

To condemn the entire private sector for the failure of one small part of the capitalist system is nuts.

So primary producers, manufacturers, the services sector and any other part of the private sector nationally and internationally must all beat the blame for the recession?

Would we condemn the entire public service because of the single failure of, say, the Corrections Department? Tempting but unfair.

A good example of the stupidity of those who rant against the private sector and think this means all of capitalism has failed.

A horrified Grant Robertson claimed it signalled the resurgence of Treasury’s influence over the public sector.

Hang on. “Resurgence of Treasury’s influence?” Hadn’t his previous Labour government somehow banished Treasury to a corner where it could not exercise any influence over the financial performance of the public service?

Yes.

Tags: , , ,

PSA supports EFA repeal

February 10th, 2009 at 2:46 pm by David Farrar

Despite supporting the Electoral Finance Act at the time, the PSA has now come out and said it supports its repeal. Better late than never.

But of course, there is a sting. They want taxpayers to fund political party campaigns, rather than members and supporters.

It is silly to keep pushing for taxpayer funding of political parties, because all the parties have such a huge conflict of interest on this topic. Putting aside the argument for and against, it would be improper for parties to vote themselves money without the voters approving it. So if you want state funding of political parties, then either get the public to vote for it in a referendum, or have political parties make an explicit manifesto promise that they will introduce it, so if those parties win they have a mandate to do so.

What should not happen is political parties voting themselves money with no mandate from the public.

Tags: , ,

And no pay rises for state sector CEOs

January 23rd, 2009 at 1:23 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports that not only will MPs probably not be getting a pay rise this year, neither will state sector CEOs.

It is no surprise, that expectations are that overall state sector pay increases will be modest, if at all. The PSA decided to visit another galaxy by exclaiming:

Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott warned if civil servants were denied pay increases, there could be an exodus from the sector.

As wages are higher in the state sector than the private sector, I somehow don’t think this exodus will be very large.

Tags: , , ,

Listening to the advisors

September 25th, 2008 at 8:30 am by David Farrar

John Key addressed the PSA conference yesterday. A cap on the number of public servants is probably not the most popular policy there, but one pledge went down well:

“National will expect a high degree of professionalism from the public service, part of which is telling ministers what they are not comfortable hearing,” Mr Key said. “As part of this openness, policy advisers will be able to take part in Cabinet committee discussions where it is appropriate.

“That’s because advisers can exercise better judgment if they have a better understanding of the context in which they are making those judgments.”

Under the previous National government, senior officials sat in on Cabinet committee meetings, but this changed when Labour took power and the officials were made to wait outside, called in only when they were needed.

I wasn’t aware that even the Cabinet Committees had got so politicised that officials were excluded from them.

Tags: , ,

PSA registers as a third party

March 17th, 2008 at 8:52 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports that the PSA has applied to register as a third party. Now they are not affiliated to a political party, so I can’t imagine there will be any issue about their eligibility.

What is interesting though, is why they are registering at all. The PSA goes to great lengths to claim political neutrality.

Ms Pilott said the union had understood that if it wanted to campaign on ideas, it had to register in order not to break the law.

“It is already the case in fact that public services and the extent to which they are going to be funded or the value of them is already an election issue so I think it vindicates our decision.” …

“But our understanding is that if we want to participate in the election campaign in pursuit of particular ideas out there, then we are required to register.”

So they wish to remain politically neutral, but they need to register in case their promotion of their ideas breach the Act. Annette King’s law of common sense doesn’t seem to be working that well.

Tags: ,