Like most organizations, the cost of labour (payroll) tends to make up the bulk of government spending so any attempts to look at cost control will turn to either cutting the number of public sector workers (and by that I am talking about all public sector workers – education, health care, not just public administration), freezing or cutting wages or a combination of both.
Some people will say that the Lord government was making up for the lean years under McKenna but there is no denying that public sector wages rose dramatically under Premier Lord.
There are some potential ways to control costs – looking at other governments and the private sector for answers. Beyond the draconian 25% cut that some people have tossed about in the media.
Several U.S. states have moved to either a four day work week or they have rotating days off (without pay). Check out Utah here.
Many goverments – most in the U.S. – have moved to a defined contribution plan to at least curb the growth in non-wage costs. The NB public sector union has been very much against this approach but it is the way things are going.
I happen to be a big fan of the public service and of the importance of doing work for the community and the public at large. I think there is sometimes too much bashing of the public service.
The truth is we need a highly competent and equally important engaged civil service if we are to pull out of the chronic rut we are in. So in the short term government needs to do what it needs to do to manage costs but in the longer run, I’d like to see far more effort on engaging the workers in the public sector to be part of the solution. If we want to turn the ship around, we will need the public sector to be a major player in the process.