Lessons From MFAT: Pray, Do Yoga, Get a Pet?

January 22nd, 2015

While MFAT trims the fat from its Ministry in staff cuts which have been described in leaked cables as ‘Armageddon like’, employees have allegedly been advised to ‘pray, do yoga or get a pet’ to help cope with the  turmoil.

It is no wonder that the employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade are disgruntled. Chief Executive John Allen announced the drastic changes in employment will force 600 to reapply for their jobs and leave 300 out of work . The issue is a classic employment law dilemma where unleashing proposals without giving thought to the human result can lead to catastrophe.

The irony of the matter is that the reapplication process, designed to sort the wheat from the chaff and make the Ministry more efficient, is actually forcing those most capable, secure and confident to seriously consider leaving. According to a survey released by the Foreign Services Association,  73% of MFAT staff currently posted abroad are considering returning to New Zealand or resigning after their posting, while 66% of those here in Wellington are less likely to consider postings and 25% are considering resigning.

The bottom line according to Foreign Service Association President Warren Fraser is “hardly anyone will want to serve New Zealand abroad under the proposed changes”.  It’s a sentiment that PSA national secretary Brenda Pilott agrees with, who says that “we are currently pushing our best and brightest to look elsewhere for jobs.”

Foreign Minister Murray McCully is listening, and while the proposal is on hold he is pushing for a sensible balance between taxpayer confidence in the efficiency of the Ministry and investment in the Ministry’s talent base. Prime Minister John Key is also indicating cuts may not be as aggressive as those outlined in the original proposal.  But it may be a case of too little too late for the 73% already seriously considering resignation.

The turmoil at MFAT holds a lesson for all employers large or small. Before hitting the panic button, first consider the human response.   Sometimes yoga isn’t enough to save your business, and f you need help or advice in this area the best thing to do is to contact us at Buckett Law. We have the experience to provide solutions and nip employment issues in the bud before they become a problem.

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