Employees are being overworked to the point where they need
counselling or take stress leave because bosses are ramping
up performance targets to save hiring new staff, union
The latest Employment Trends report says almost a third of
all employers (30.8 per cent) consider enhancing existing
staff performance and productivity as their top priorities
Almost two-thirds have no plans to hire new staff in the near
FIRST Union general secretary Robert Reid said employees were
facing official warnings for failing to meet unrealistic
targets set by bosses demanding more work from fewer staff.
"We're finding a complete misunderstanding from employers
about what productivity is and often [they] use the word as
making a worker's work harder," Mr Reid said.
"Over the last year and few months there has certainly been
what we would term a huge increase in work intensity.
"The screws on [performance targets are] tightening so that
last year's [target] is not good enough, you have to do
Mr Reid, whose union represents 27,000 workers, said the
intensifying work expectations were resulting in high levels
of stress for many, who were taking sick leave and requiring
Every month the union receives calls from members who are
"absolutely overworked, stressed to the max" and "having to
have discipline hearings because their work level is not at
the level required for the new targets".
The Public Service Association (PSA) said there was "no
doubt" that the loss of about 3000 jobs in the public sector
over the past four years had put "immense pressure on workers
who are being told to go the extra mile to meet ambitious
public service targets with fewer resources".
PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff said some government
agencies had unfilled vacancies as high as 30 per cent.
"That puts huge pressure on existing staff in terms of
workload and we know many of our members are putting in
hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime to try and keep up and
get the job done," he said.
"Simply demanding greater productivity from staff is not the
"Employers need to be exploring how they can improve the
quality of their own management and leadership and foster
co-operative, supportive workplaces if they want to get the
most of their employees."
The Employment Trends report, by recruitment consultants
Hudson, found more than half of employers (61.8 per cent)
intend to keep staffing levels steady this quarter. Almost a
third (30.4 per cent) intend to employ more people.
Mr Reid said FIRST Union was treating the stress placed on
staff facing growing performance targets as a priority this
He said the welfare of staff was "very closely linked to
health and safety" and union officials continued to negotiate
with businesses better ways to manage staff expectations.
"It's going to be one of our key issues in our own strategic
plan for this year," he said.
The priorities of businesses this year
- 30.8 per cent of businesses say enhancing staff performance
and productivity is their top priority this year
- 17.2 per cent are focused on retaining staff
- 16.9 per cent on staff development
- 11.3 per cent on developing leadership capabilities
- 11 per cent on attracting suitable staff
- 8.2 per cent on restructuring
Source: Hudson Employment Trends report
- Kieran Campbell of APNZ