The Public Service Association is very pleased to see yesterday’s South Australian budget contains no new staffing cuts or demands for greater efficiency from the state’s bureaucracy.
The government’s forward plans include an existing reduction of 2971 full-time equivalents (FTE) from the whole SA Government workforce by the end of the 2018-19 financial year. Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis has described this as a “prudent” staffing level.
The state’s main public sector union said the SA bureaucracy was “already overstretched” and welcomed the news that it would not be squeezed any further. “Absolutely fabulous” is how secretary Jan McMahon reportedly described the decision to hold off on further workforce reductions.
But some have questioned whether the SA Government considers it a priority to reduce the size of its public service workforce. In last year’s budget, the Weatherill government said it would reduce headcount by 4015 FTE over four years.
The Australian reports that the government said in 2008 it would remove about 5000 jobs from its workforce, which was well under 80,000 FTE at the time.
According to the state’s Office for the Public Sector, there were 103,087 employees working hours equivalent to 85,371.1 full-time staff in the workforce as of June, 2014, a decrease of 1,175 staff or 885 FTE from June, 2013.
The government will also continue to accept annual wage increases for public servants of up to 2.5%, with anything above that required to be offset by measures that are considered to improve productivity. Efficiency dividends remain set at 1%.
In any case, with unemployment running at 7.6% and the public sector accounting for 12.8% of all of South Australia’s jobs, at June 2014, having less workers on the government payroll may not be the most pressing priority on the Labor government’s mind.
“Jobs are the centrepiece of our reform package,” Koutsantonis said in his budget speech, pledging to get the net operating balance to a modest surplus of $43 million this year, rising optimistically to $961 million in 2018-19.
The government has also invested in a technology upgrade for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions which gets a new computer system worth $2.2 million over this year and next. According to the budget:
“The new system will allow comprehensive integration, sharing and exchange of electronic data between the ODPP and other criminal justice sector organisations [and] will deliver savings of around $200,000 per annum once fully implemented.”
Another budget measure provides $20.3 million for an electronic court management system:
“The new system will manage the electronic flow of court documents and information, as well as improvements to internal registry processes [and] will replace the current ageing systems and facilitate the transition to electronic case management.”