INDEPENDENT NEWS

State Sector Policy - Service First

Published: Tue 23 Nov 1999 01:14 PM
Labour in government would expect a greater level of professionalism and accountability from the state sector, but would also foster a better career structure and opportunities, state sector spokesperson Trevor Mallard said today.
Trevor Mallard said Labour wanted to put the 'service' back into the state sector and would be requiring a new era of integrity. It would focus on staff training and retention and require employers to pay more attention to personnel strategies.
"Labour wants to reverse the decline in core public services. To do that, we need a public sector with qualified and experienced staff.
"High staff turnover that has dogged the public sector in recent years and the over-reliance on consultants has contributed to a decline in the depth of experience in the public sector. Jenny Shipley's legacy as former State Services Minister is a decimated and demoralised public service.
"There are some really dedicated public servants working at all levels of the service but unfortunately some cowboys and cowgirls with inappropriate values have led to the perception of a general decline in standards.
"Labour plans to introduce industrial relations legislation that will encourage collective bargaining. It will require that employers and unions negotiate in good faith to achieve acceptable outcomes.
"State sector employers will be expected to lead the way as 'good employers'. Negotiations over remuneration will not be confined just to annual salary rates. Issues such as superannuation, access to training and related matters need to be included.
"There are a lot of good people working in the state sector. Labour wants to work with them to ensure the emphasis of their work is on values, ethics and a commitment to the public good.
"We will consult with those working in the sector to determine more detailed policy including legislative change. That process will address issues such as the processes that should be followed to determine:
· what the public service is expected to deliver;
· the resource levels needed;
· how the expectations of the government and those of the public can be reconciled;
· the structures which are most appropriate to deliver the services demanded;
· the method of moving from contractualism to a service emphasis
"I'd like to see more co-operation between agencies. They should complement each other - not compete against each other. There is plenty of scope for initiatives like greater use of secondments to develop and utilise skills. Government agencies will also show leadership by taking advantage of other initiatives such as Labour's modern apprenticeship scheme."
Trevor Mallard said it was also important for members of the public to be able to deal with a person rather than a machine.
"Developments in new technology should be used to enhance a service - not detract from it.
"My constituents, who used to be able to walk into Inland Revenue in Lower Hutt and talk to someone personally to sort out an issue, now have to work via the telephone where they are 'lucky' if they get to talk to someone as close as Porirua. Those trying to deal with an ACC issue could now find themselves having to deal with someone in Dunedin.
"I have had a personal experience with this mad use of technology in that I have been waiting since March for a form from one agency without joy, and despite three attempts have never got past an answer machine nor received the required form.
"For some sections of society, that face to face contact is more important - like older New Zealanders, Maori, Pacific and other ethnic minorities where English may not be the first language. There should always be an option to talk to someone in person, rather than leave messages on a machine," Trevor Mallard said.

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