MFAT restructuring

The Dom Post reports:

Most of the Ministry and Foreign Affairs 600 staff will have to reapply for their jobs under a restructuring proposal that could see up to 300 jobs go and lucrative allowances for staff on overseas postings whittled back to boost pay packets back home.

Staff will be told on Thursday about proposals to cull up to 50 diplomatic positions by closing embassies in cities including Stockholm and Warsaw, and downsizing others.

Worth stressing that these are options, and no formal plan has been presented yet.

Labour MP Phil Goff said he would be alarmed at any moves to slash New Zealand diplomacy abroad.

But sources say a bottleneck at the senior management level had seen a drift of younger, talented staff to positions in the private sector, because MFAT’s system for deciding promotions barred many of those staff from getting a better position if someone more senior than them applied.

They also fingered the perks associated with overseas postings, which acted as a strong incentive for senior staff to stay on, and helped create a huge imbalance between the pay packets of workers back in Wellington, compared with their colleagues overseas.

One source said diplomats and staff seconded to overseas missions had all their expenses covered including school fees, accommodation, transport and travel and also received an allowance equal to 20 per cent of their salary if their spouse was not working, plus extra allowances for each child.

Once salaries and extra support were taken into account, some senior diplomats were receiving equivalent to $500,000 a year, while staff back in Wellington received rates considered below average for the public sector.

The overseas postings certainly are prized.

Some of the jobs that are set to disappear from overseas posts include drivers, chefs and administration staff, a number of which are seconded from Wellington and receive the same allowances.

And presumably locals can be hired to do these non diplomatic jobs.

It will be interesting to see what John Allen proposes on Thursday. The quality of staff at MFAT is generally excellent – they are one of the top public sector ministries. But it doesn’t mean that no changes should be made to improve performance.

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