Tasmanian bureaucrats rush for redundancy offers

By Stephen Easton

August 18, 2015

Tasmanian agencies have exceeded the government’s workforce reduction target for the 2014-15 financial year, with more than half of the job cuts coming from health, human services and education.

Peter Gutwien
Peter Gutwien

The government set a goal of ending its first term with 1200 less full-time state service jobs on the payroll, and had chalked up 916 by June 30.

The target for the financial year was 821 after police accepted a pay freeze in exchange for 40 planned job losses. “The government is grateful for the responsible way in which they have conducted themselves; they are an exemplar to the public service,” treasurer Peter Gutwein said on budget day.

On the weekend, he was pleased to report more interest in exit incentives and voluntary redundancies than expected. Some of the biggest reductions, in full-time equivalents (FTEs), include:

  • 337 from the Department of Health and Human Services
  • 251 from the Department of Education
  • 121 from the Department of State Growth
  • 113 from the Parks and Wildlife Service
  • 46 from TasTAFE
  • 29 from the Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • 17 from the Department of Treasury and Finance

The net reduction of 916 includes just over 30 FTEs added to various agencies in the financial year. Gutwein said there had been no “frontline reductions in areas such as hospital clinical services” since the last update in March.

The treasurer boasted that “in the Department of Police and Emergency management the number of sworn officers has increased by 22 over the year and there are 42 more prison service employees in the Department of Justice”. Both agencies show net reductions, of five and seven FTEs respectively.

In the Department of Health and Human Services, “corporate consolidation” planned for this financial year was accelerated as slightly more employees than expected took the opportunity for an early exit.

Nurse numbers are stable and Gutwein said 158 school teacher jobs were cut rather than a planned 185, cheerily noting that’s “a reduction of less than one teacher per school on average”.

The job cuts were achieved through “voluntary redundancies, the cessation of fixed term contracts and natural attrition accompanied by active vacancy control” at a cost of $14 million in “workforce renewal” incentive payments and $18.5 million in redundancy packages, according to the treasurer.

The State Services Management Office is conducting a review of the Workforce Renewal Incentive Program, which was due on June 30 but is still several weeks away, according to the SSMO. The auditor-general is also on the case.

The opposition suggests redundancies and incentives are being “rorted” in the rush to meet the government’s targets, and says the budget has unnecessarily reduced delivery of community services, health and education. Labor leader Bryan Green said in a statement:

“It’s little wonder waiting lists in our hospitals have blown out so dramatically under the Hodgman government when you look at the level of unnecessary neglect. Despite GST and other revenues increasing by a staggering $180 million our schools and hospitals have never had it so bad.”

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