Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Punishing our saviours again

Last year public servants saved our lives, working overtime in the middle of a pandemic to stand up a response which kept out Covid and kept kiwis alive and employed. The government rewarded them with a pay freeze. And now they're extending that for another three years:

Public servants earning more than $60,000 will only be offered pay increases under select circumstances for the next three years, Public Service Minister Chris Hipkins has announced.

There will be no pay increases for those earning more than $100,000 or senior leaders, while those earning less than $60,000 – about a quarter of the sector – will still see pay increases.

The move extends a measure brought in last year, set to expire next month.

This is unjust, and in the middle of a housing crisis which has seen the price of houses in Wellington jump 25% in a year, cruel. But its also stupid. Public servants already have a strong culture of switching jobs or quitting to work as contractors to get a pay rise, destroying institutional memory and agency capability in the process. And Hipkins has just hit the accelerator on that merry-go-round in the name of mindless austerity. The long-term consequences are unlikely to be good. But since when have politicians cared about the long-term?