Friday, May 24, 2024

Clive Bibby: Public servants and the chop.

I spent 12 years of my career as a pubic servant in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Farm Advisory Division during the 1970s.

During that time I was able to take advantage of some very real benefits available because of my association (membership of) with the PSA Union. 

Although my personal political beliefs at the time, when the powerful Boilermakers Union led by a Pommie Communist was holding the Country to ransom suggested I was being somewhat hypocritical as the main breadwinner in a family wanting to build its first home - I swallowed some dead rats and signed up to some very attractive low interest loans. The rest they say is history. 

Having spent the last 43 years since leaving the MAF in order to follow my dream of farm ownership, I am in a pretty good position to compare career opportunities within the Public Service and Private Enterprise - then and now. 

One of the reasons for considering working for the State at the time I did was the advice being given by my parents generation who had experienced first hand the employment uncertainty associated with the 1930’s World Wide Depression and that of post WW2. Most recommended a career with the State because it offered job security like nothing else - some even suggested it was a job for life and actually, unlike today, they had good reason to think it was. It was virtually impossible to be sacked even for incompetence. 

But those post War years were characterised by a booming economy and so unemployment levels were relatively low and job security wasn’t a problem. 

There were also systems in place that ensured employment opportunities were conditional but these conditions were set by the employer, not so much negotiated by the unions of the day. 

My parents were both teachers and were bonded to the Education Ministry after they graduated. Some of the places they went to provided sub standard living conditions. 

One was so bad, my Dad had to cart fresh water from a spring in the bush. But the contracted service worked brilliantly as a way of filling all the remote teaching positions and in my opinion, should be re-introduced across government departments (particularly the Health and Education Ministries) in order to fill today’s critical vacancies at rural Health clinics and Schools.

But that was then and this is now! 

While it should still be a condition of employment for Immigrant Health and Education professionals seeking permanent residence in this country, unfortunately, the Public Service unions appear unwilling to support such an “across the board” approach. 

Perhaps they should be made to as part of their agreement to cover future working conditions.
Let’s talk about other factors affecting the current job market. 

One of the main influential factors affecting employment opportunities in modern society is the Government’s decision to pass legislation that forces departments to operate within budgeted allocations. Recent attempts to reduce unnecessary expenditure will only succeed if the majority of State servants hope the “Sword of Damocles” doesn’t fall on their heads and reluctantly accept the cuts only if it doesn’t involve their position. In the modern difficult employment environment, it generally becomes someone else’s problem. A job’s a job! 

Many in the private sector will see this as a good thing if it really does have the affect of making savings from government expenditure by cutting real waste and the cuts made are “across the board” involving people at all levels from top to bottom.

In their eyes, this should bring the public sector employees into line with those in the private work force where job losses are the result of businesses cutting their cloth to suit the downturn in the economy.

But maybe that’s just wishful thinking. 

Here’s why! 

Unfortunately, the Public sector has been allowed to develop over the years including a two tier system - a relatively overpaid management system with responsibilities for the rest who are the ones operating at the coalface, doing the real work. 

So, it should be no surprise that the ones who lose their jobs as a result of a government edict are almost always those who have little say in where the cuts should occur. 

Consequently, unlike the private sector, the last people to be sacked are those “incompetents” at the top who have built a pyramid structure of sycophantic “yes” men and women who are dependent on the top brass for their own jobs. 

Sadly as a result, the Public sector is rife with this type of management structure and will remain so as long as all employment contracts are not performance based.

If this all sounds like a whistle blower seeking revenge, it shouldn’t be.

As an 80 year old, I simply have nothing to lose or gain at a personal financial level - only the satisfaction of exposing a system that we can’t afford. It needs to change. 

Let’s hope that others with far more influence than me will be encouraged to identify the rot within the system and make sure those who are really surplus to requirements do get the chop instead of our most valuable employees. 

It must happen.

Clive Bibby is a commentator, consultant, farmer and community leader, who lives in Tolaga Bay.

1 comment:

Kay O'Lacey said...

Indeed it's true that those at the coalface seem always to be the first to be sacrificed while "..the last people to be sacked are those “incompetents” at the top who have built a pyramid structure of sycophantic “yes” men and women..".

David Graebar's easy-to-read book "Bullshit Jobs" covers this brilliantly and should be compulsory reading for any so-called 'manager' (public or private). Why the CEO's who allowed this grotesque bloating of their respective agencies over a few short years were not the very first to be sacked leaves many wondering WTAF?

Other recent commentary on this site has covered the matter of 'trust' as related to government spending of taxpayers money. If to many simple and complex folk alike, the methodology of current government 'cuts' doesn't even look rational, that's because the axe is being wielded by these CEO's and their ilk and simply falling on the wrong positions.