Monday, October 15, 2012

Emergency Resources

Does anyone know exactly how many Queensland Public Servants have already been cut by King Campbell? It’s a lot. We know that, and the 14,000 figure keeps popping up – but is that the total number? Or is that the number announced in the budget, not including people previously made redundant? There are so many stories with so many numbers, it’s easy to lose track of the numbers, and easier still to lose sight of the sad truth that we’re not counting odd buttons or bonbonnieres. These are people. Families. Communities. It’s our community.

The worst of is the brutality with which the whole disaster has been conducted. It’s heartless – economic and emotional despair for most of those who’ve lost their jobs, and even more work with less resources and little motivation for those who kept their jobs. It’s not easy to find an accurate number, but it would appear that around 24,000 people have already been cut – that’s over 10% of the public service. Furthermore, it’s estimated that around 80% of those made redundant by the cuts are female. It’s not business as usual for these people. Nothing is “as usual” – and it’s LNP super-donor Clive Palmer who has kicked in funds along with the ALP Federal Government, to assist the outplaced workers find new opportunities.

No-one outside the Public Service is talking all that much about the restructuring that is going on within departments though. Offices of people, colleagues and team-mates, are being split up and moved into departments where they don’t know the people or the workflow – or even what the department does.

Project Managers are being kept on while their projects – and sometimes their entire departments – are put on hold, or merged with others, or abandoned altogether. I know at least one public servant who took her long service leave, came back and is now going from office to office in her building, asking if anyone needs any filing done, because she’s still getting her public service salary, but the projects she was managing are gone. She’ll be needed again. I know of two others, friends of friends, who were made redundant while on maternity leave.

They’re talking about the dramatic restructuring inside the Public Service though, and King Campbell has started to notice that there’s collateral damage. He is learning that even if he disregards the 24,000 people who have lost their jobs, life does not just go on for those left behind. Anecdotally, morale is down, productivity and service delivery are down, sick leave is up. Few staffers want to remain with the Public Service, but resignation in an environment of rising unemployment is too big a risk to take.

Last week, the Premier’s Department started putting out feelers for current employees within the Queensland Public Service who are qualified and experienced Change Managers to make themselves are known. Apparently, someone in the Premier’s Office has noticed that people – the ones who are still on the payroll– are reacting negatively to the change. Things are being missed, handovers of responsibility isn’t happening, programmes are being scrapped, or merged, or defunded without reference to the consequences. Communication is chaotic. I’m not talking about mass rallies, union action and petitions here; it’s just twigged with someone that in order for the Queensland Government to continue to function as a primary service provider through this period of major transition, it needs some experts to help steady the ship. Of course, it can’t recruit Contract Change Specialists, so it’s recruiting from within, potentially leaving other projects without resources.
And if King Campbell hadn’t been in quite such a hurry, he could have limited much of the damage by having Change Managers in place before the state’s services were shredded.

Meanwhile, many miles away from the executive buildings, life does go on, and those of us stuck in the Newmanian private sector still rely on dramatically downsized Newmanian Public Service to provide for us. How on earth can we survive if standards fall? 

As far back as late May, when the King Campbell’s crown was only two months old, his government suspended the recruitment and training of fire-fighters. There are no new fire-fighters coming through the system, and let me remind you: fighting fires is not like being a political bean-counter. It is a young man’s game that requires extraordinary fitness and incredible courage. And here in Newmania, we’ve stopped recruiting new fire-fighters, a professional already battling a skills crisis. And again, it’s been handled with all the grace and skill of the proverbial bull in the china shop:

"Our office has received numerous calls from job applicants who have participated in extensive assessment at their own cost, were shortlisted and interviewed for the August recruit course.

Applicants only received a brief letter stating that recruiting is suspended until further notice, it is an absolute disgrace the way these people have been treated " Mr Oliver said.

Yesterday, the townhouse adjoining mine caught fire and I rang 000. Actually, I relived a recurring nightmare, where I need to ring 000, but I can’t dial the number, or no-one answers, or they can’t help… I admit, I was shaking so much; it took two goes to get through. Our local firies were there within a few minutes, by which time I had awoken the tenant, the complex manager had been able to get the fire under control, and my trusty little extinguisher finished the job off. My neighbour spent a few hours in hospital, and eventually I stopped shaking.

These guys in the yellow suits are incredible.
 You see, it’s all about be prepared. Stuff happens: If King Campbell knew he was going to gut the Public Service, why didn’t he wait a few extra days while he got a team in place who know how to do these things with a minimum of disruption. Why didn’t he prepare properly?

And now, his drive to cut costs is costing us the next class cohort of fire-fighters. I was lucky yesterday. What if it’s Mr Newman’s house with smoke pouring out of it, and there aren’t enough fire-fighters to save his home, or enough ambos to save his family? I’m not suggesting that any of us should become Doomsday Preppers, but we should at least think about what we might need to have on hand in case of an emergency. It can be the little things – a phone number, an extinguisher, a change manager – that make the difference between something stupid and total devastation.

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