Despite its promise to create jobs in the economic downturn, the Rudd government is imposing job cuts on the federal public service.
Cuts of 3.25 per cent in each department, or as the government calls them “efficiency dividends”, imposed in last year’s budget have resulted in job cuts and increased workloads for staff.
Around 130 jobs were cut in the Tax Office in January as management scrambled to make savings to meet their 3.25 per cent budget cut.
The department has also revealed a major restructuring plan in its Operations Division designed to cut wage costs. Unions have estimated 3000 job losses would be necessary under the plan.
This comes after two decades where governments have demanded “efficiency savings” every year in the public service, stretching all the way back to the days of Hawke and Keating.
The result is that in most departments any genuine efficiencies were made years ago—so agencies are forced to make cuts to basic operations.
Neo-liberal razor gang
This year’s budget is expected to impose more cuts, and has been dubbed by Finance Minister Lindsey Tanner “Razor Gang stage two”.
In a recent address to the National Press Club, he proudly recalled how, “since we’ve been in office, we’ve cut over $4 billion from the cost of running government.”
In the Immigration department up to 1000 jobs look set to be cut in this year’s budget. Management has already written to all staff announcing that major savings must be made.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has launched an “Essential Services” campaign against the cuts. It aims to mobilise union members to demand properly resourced public services.
As the CPSU campaign points out, demand for services like Centrelink and Medicare will rise with more people joining the ranks of the unemployed as the economic crisis bites.
The government’s cost cutting approach demonstrates that its commitment to neo-liberalism continues, despite Kevin Rudd’s declarations that its time has passed.
At the same time as it is trying to inflate the economy with its multi-billion dollar spending packages, the government is calling for “savings” and cutting jobs in the public service.
Public services are crucial to cushioning the blow as hundreds of thousands of working class people are thrown out of work or forced to take pay cuts.
And directly employing more workers in public service jobs would be the fastest way the government could create jobs to ease unemployment.
By James Supple