Oranga Tamariki, Ministry of Education cuts: Unions, organisations furious as over 1000 jobs go in one day

Unions and community organisations are slamming the Government's public service cuts with one calling them "brutal", "rushed" and "knee-jerk".   

It comes after Oranga Tamariki and the Ministry of Education revealed they were collectively proposing cutting more than 1000 jobs in an effort to meet the Government's 6.5 to 7.5 percent savings.  

Oranga Tamariki is proposing a net loss of 447 jobs while the Ministry of Education is cutting 565 jobs including nearly 100 regional jobs and frontline roles supporting schools.   

The Public Services Association said the cuts mark a "black day for public service workers".   

"The brutal and rushed nature of the Government's spending cuts have been exposed with two critical agencies supporting children and young people proposing to shed 1012 jobs," PSA Assistant Secretary Fleur Fitzsimons said.   

"Today is a black day for public service workers and the children and young people they support, with savage cuts that we believe will not deliver the better outcomes the Government promises."  

Fitzsimons said hundreds of dedicated public servants are losing their jobs and facing an uncertain future.   

"This is causing incredible distress to them and their families. Our message to them is this is not about you, it's not a reflection on the work you do or the contribution you have made to our nation but about the Government's heartless and chaotic approach to cutting public services," she said.   

"Oranga Tamariki and the Ministry of Education are vital agencies, yet they are being stripped of more than 1000 roles in proposals with no clear direction from the Government as to what will happen to savings."  

Fitzsimons said the Government promised to reinvest all savings into so called frontline services, "but there is no obvious plan to do this and yet they are prepared to dismiss highly experienced and skilled public service workers the taxpayer has invested in".   

"Both agencies are large and complex with many moving parts. Every worker plays an important role in delivering a better future for children and young people, yet both stand to lose hundreds of dedicated public servants, around one in ten workers.  

"We know these cuts will have a negative impact on tamariki, rangatahi, whānau and communities and that the work of teachers and social workers will be made harder despite the Government's promise that frontline services will not be impacted."   

Health Coalition Aotearoa meanwhile hit out at Associate Education Minister David Seymour, calling for him to reveal how he plans to achieve the same results for the school lunches programme Ka Ora, Ka Ako with less funding and staff.  

"It's time for him to explain how he will do this, what the consequences will be and what evidence he has that these changes will achieve the same results," HCA said in a release on Wednesday.   

The statement went on to say cuts to the MOE team responsible for the school lunches puts "the viability of the programme and the health, wellbeing and educational success of a quarter of New Zealand students at risk".   

"These cuts will make it extremely difficult to ensure the required food safety, contracts oversight, monitoring, quality improvements and waste management that have made the programme so successful," HCA co-chair Professor Boyd Swinburn said.  

"It's pretty clear these staff cuts are part one of a two-part plan by the Government to knee-cap the programme.  

"The proposed cuts will leave many students hungry, increase financial hardship of whānau, and increase barriers to educational achievement."   

Meanwhile, independent advocacy organisation VOYCE (Voice Of the Young and Care Experienced) said the cuts to Oranga Tamariki put children at risk.   

"We need to be concerned about how this will affect children and young people, and how this will impact Oranga Tamariki's ability to hear feedback from the care community, to make longer-term changes and improvements," CEO Tracie Shipton said.  

"We feel for the people who have lost their jobs - this work is not for the faint-hearted and it is not easy to recruit to. I hope we have retained enough institutional intelligence within Oranga Tamariki to make the pathway for young people accessible.  

"These job cuts affect advisory and enabling teams which are critical for amplifying the voices of young people in care within the system, and that will have a measured impact on those already in care, and will undoubtedly have a lasting and long term impact on those who need care in the future."  

Shipton said she understands the need for some cuts to be made but "slicing right through the middle weakens an already fragile structure further."   

Shipton said the cuts are knee-jerk, and greater consideration and care should've been taken.  

"The change proposals have been developed at pace, and we are concerned about whether consultation with the care community has occurred and been taken into account".