Public Servant Sick Days Rise Under Rann

10 Feb 2005 archivemedia
Public servants are taking a record number of sick days under the Rann Government, an official report shows. (Thursday, 10 February 2005)

Public servants are taking a record number of sick days under the Rann Government, an official report shows.

The 2004 Office for the Commissioner for Public Employment (OCPE) shows South Australian public servants took an average of 7.4 sick days each in 2004, up from just 6.1 days in 2001 under the former Liberal administration (see attached table).

Ms Lensink believes the alarming trend is linked to the increasing stress and bully-boy tactics placed on public servants by the Rann Labor Government.

“This increase illustrates a disturbing trend which is costing South Australian taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars,” she said.

“Public servants have told me that the bullying tactics of the Rann Government have impacted on morale and confidence and many people are taking stress days, as they simply can’t handle the harassment.”

Ms Lensink said the most recent “Workforce Perspective Survey” of 6,328 public servants conducted by the OCPE in 2003 showed:

o More than a quarter of respondents (26%) said they had experienced workplace bullying in the 12 month period; o Of these, only one third reported it, because they "were not confident any good would come out of it"; and o 20% of respondents reported they had experienced unwelcome behaviour.

In response to the question: "How has your morale changed, if at all, over the last eighteen months?" 40% of respondents said it had "deteriorated or deteriorated greatly" in the last eighteen months.

 “Public servants are being forced to pick up the pieces of this Labor administration’s incompetence,” Ms Lensink said.

“Morale in the public sector has hit an all-time low and cases like the Kate Lennon stashed-cash affair are evidence that public servants are being made the scapegoats of Rann and his inept ministers.”

Ms Lensink said an email from an anonymous public servant dated January 31, 2005, proved the morale crisis within the public service sector.

I attended the IPAA Governance seminar today, it was addressed by Nick Polletti of the Public Sector Reform Unit, Monsignor Cappo, Terry Tysoe (on the state strategic plan) and Kate Costello on Boards.

 I was surprised by the anger and mistrust shown towards the Government. I was aware of it but I hadn't seen how strongly others felt.

When it came to the panel discussion at the end it was painfully obvious that Nick Polletti (ex Victoria) "didn't get it" and was surprised by the suggestions that the public sector in SA will not take any steps towards innovation and risk taking while they know that any mistake will be punished.

Kate Costello suggested that Governments of all political persuasions should lead by example in creating a positive culture in the public sector.

Innovation, appropriate risk taking and change will only occur in a positive working environment. Governments cannot introduce cultural change by decree. Where people are concerned, emotions are involved and it’s up to Governments to demonstrate the necessary leadership so often demanded of the private sector.

I have not attended a gathering of senior public servants like it in the 20+ years I have been in the service.

The comments reflect those in an article titled “Public Service anger at Rann, Cabinet” published in The Advertiser on Wednesday, February 2, 2005:

A ballot of Public Service Association members shows “goodwill and support” under Labor has evaporated. Instead, president Lindsay Oxlad said the Government was “bitter and acrimonious”.

 PSA general-secretary Jan McMahon described Labor’s attitude to the public service as “dismissive, confrontational and uncompromising”.

 “It’s about time the Rann Government woke up to itself before the public sector revolts and the government is left with a massive mess to fix up,” Ms Lensink said.

“It seems it will take another Liberal administration to get our public service system back to the high standard it was before Mr Rann and his hopeless team entered office.”