I alluded to what is going on right now yesterday, hinting at the fact the government has frozen the pay of any teacher, doctor, nurse, police officer, or public servant earning over 60 000 by means of executive order. This is going down as well as expected. These groups normally vote Labour, and there are enough of them to flip the election. This is not smart politics.
I had a quick talk with some senior people at work. I am not a public servant (technically) so this does not apply to me. But this is not helping with goodwill for those who I know who work in hospitals, schools or the civil service. Their salaries are the only ones that are keeping the average coffee shop going where I live.
The government wants us distracted. That might be the reason the Speaker went off piste yesterday and the PM announced that she and her long term BF will marry in the summer. What I can say is that I get emails most days offering jobs in Australia. With better salary packages. But the unions are pushing back.
Police Association president Chris Cahill said: “We’ve had a massive response and without a doubt the theme is ‘Where is the government coming from? What rock are they under? Are they not looking out there and seeing the cost of housing, the cost of rents, the obvious inflation that is coming through?’.
“Every economist is saying inflation is going to be a big issue and any pay freeze in reality, is a pay cut over three years when you’ve inflation the way it is.
“They are just ignoring the productivity that the public service is putting in. From a police point I can tell you a 44 percent increase over the last four years in family harm incidents attended, mental health going through the roof. Gang members at record numbers.
“They are working hard than ever and this is just a kick in the guts.”
As for how police would respond to the pay freeze, Cahill said: “We’ve got 2000 new officers that have joined in the past four years … but they are at the bottom. They are at that 60,000,61,000 range. These are the young people that want to start families, that want to buy houses. They are struggling to even rent properties.
“And they are the ones most at risk of walking out the door. They are the ones that we need for the future of new Zealand police, so we’re very concerned.”
Webber said the pay freeze would exacerbate teacher shortages.
“The government saying teacher shortages have been solved because of people coming back and because of Covid – what’s going to happen is the borders are going to open up again, people are going to return back overseas, but equally you’re going to have huge numbers of young teachers are going to say ‘why am I staying around?’. They are going to go on OE’s and you’re going to have older teachers retiring who have maybe held off retirement to get through this.
“Shortages are going to be coming back.”
Cahill said the government’s move was “1970 economics”.
“What are we going to do next? Roll out carless days to combat climate change? I think we’re a lot more sophisticated than that in this day and age and how can you have good faith bargaining when you start with a three-year wage freeze. They need to understand that for public servants living in New Zealand, three-year wage freezes is not something they are going to put up with.”
David Farrar, the National Party pollster, calls this courageous, and suggests that Hipkins (minister of state services) & Robertson (minister of finance) should be made members of the Taxpayer’s Union.
Some on the left are calling this austerity. That is unfair. They are not cutting government spending. Far from it. They are still increasing spending massively each year and borrowing tens of billions. It’s just they have decided that they would rather spend the money elsewhere.
Now while I am fully supportive of their fiscal rectitude in this area, I will concede the tool they have used is a blunt one. Freezing all salaries over 60,000 is rather Muldoonish. It also may be somewhat ineffectual as it may just lead too more job swapping, consultants etc. A better way of achieving fiscal rectitude would be freezing the overall staffing (and consultants) budget for each agency and leave it to each CEO how they manage within that. Some might freeze salaries. Others might reduce staff numbers and give remaining staff an increase etc. One size fits all solutions are rarely the best option.
But once again kudos to Robbo and Chippie for doing what not even a National government would dare to do, telling public sector unions there will be no pay increases (for staff over $60,000) for three years.
It is fair to say that the private sector got hammered last year, and some would say that the public sector should share in the pain.. But for the qualifed, the market for jobs includes Australia, and the Aussies can pay more, without having to worry about those who would make the indigenous partner, able to determine almost everything by their tribal, woke circular plumbline. I expect that there will be industrial action. We will have a winter of discontent.