Christopher Luxon says pay freeze on public servants might need to go, but they need to perform better

Christopher Luxon says a pay freeze on public servants might need to be scrapped but warns workers need to perform better. 

Newshub revealed on Tuesday the Government isn't adhering to its public sector pay freeze - with hundreds of public servants earning over $100,000 getting increases despite a freeze. 

Since 2020, pay rises for public servants who earn more than $100,000 have been banned except in exceptional circumstances.

Newshub political editor Jenna Lynch revealed to AM co-host Ryan Bridge on Wednesday the freeze will likely be lifted.

"From what I understand it was reviewed at the end of last year, at the moment they're out for consultations, so talking to unions and the like and it sounds like there is going to be new pay advice issued very shortly," she said. 

"From what I understand that freeze will be lifted but the freeze hasn't exactly been a freeze after all. Pay rises over $100,000 were supposed to be pretty well banned under this belt-tightening that happened during COVID-19, but so far I think over 3000 pay rises have been granted to public servants earning over $100,000, so more of a thaw than a freeze."

Luxon told AM on Wednesday the current pay freeze is something that needs to be looked at. 

"We've got to make sure we've got good wages, good support for people who are working in the public service," Luxon told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green. 

"We've got many, many great public servants, but it's something [the pay freeze] I think is getting tough for people to manage. My view is, I want better delivery, better performance out of the public service that we see today."

When pressed again by Chan-Green for clarification, Luxon said the pay freeze might need to be scrapped.

"I think the reality is it's very difficult with the cost of living and inflation being as high as it is to maintain the pay freeze that the Government has imposed," Luxon said.

"I think that is something that'll have to be looked through and actually how you get better efficiency, better delivery out of the public service also needs to happen at the same time." 

National Party leader Christopher Luxon.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon. Photo credit: AM

The Public Service Association hit out at Luxon on Wednesday saying he needs to "stop attacking public service workers at a time of crisis". 

"Luxon has again repeated the same old myths about the public service at a time when public service workers are doing the mahi to get the country through another crisis," Kerry Davies, National Secretary of the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi said.

"We do agree with Mr Luxon on one point, he cites the need to use fewer consultants and 'build that capability in-house', but how is that possible when National plans to cut the public service?

"His numbers just don't add up. We say to Mr Luxon enough of the cheap slogans. It's time to support public service workers, and not use them as an easy political punching bag," Davies said. 

Davies said history has shown when National last cut public servants, the quality of services decreased. 

"Luxon thinks he can deliver the same quality public services New Zealanders rely on with far fewer public service workers. It didn’t work in 2008 when National was last in government and New Zealanders paid the price as services were run down and we are still dealing with that legacy today," Davies said. 

"So, please explain Mr Luxon how we can continue to deal with our great challenges, help our economy prosper and support communities around the country with a smaller public service?"

Watch the full interview with Christopher Luxon in the video above.