Swan\'s public service 'efficiency\' dividend

May 17, 2008

A casual glance at the ALP's federal budget would have you believe that there will be a net loss of 1224 public sector jobs over the next financial year. That figure, derived from an actual cut of 5061 jobs, balanced by 3837 new jobs, belies what will happen.

According to the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), if 1976 new military and reservist jobs are subtracted from the list of new jobs (as they are not officially part of the civilian public service), the job cut figure rises to 3200.

The federal government's new budget imposes an additional 2% "efficiency dividend" on top of the existing Howard-era figure of 1.25%. Treasurer Wayne Swan wants a "saving" of $7 billion over 2007-08, and $33 billion over four years.

How many public servant jobs will go as a result is unknown and may not be for some time as departments wait for their funding allocation. The natural attrition of people retiring and resigning accounts for a significant number of people leaving the public service. In large departments, people made redundant in one area can be reshuffled to other areas.

The CPSU has successfully negotiated a redeployment scheme for redundancies to minimise or negate the need for forced redundancies. But just how this will operate in an environment with an imposed 3% "efficiency dividend" remains to be seen.

While CPSU national secretary Stephen Jones has said that the cuts will rob the public service of the capacity to deliver the programs promised by the Rudd government, the union has so far not canvassed the possibility of an industrial campaign aimed at stopping the cuts. Neither has the union called members' meetings to collectively work out a response.

Instead, the CPSU has sought to mollify members' concerns by arguing that a negotiated redeployment scheme will reduce the workload in agencies so that the extra workload from job cuts isn't loaded onto remaining staff.

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