Benefits of reducing work hours disputed

Nobby Clark. Photo: Gregor Richardson/ODT files
Nobby Clark. Photo: Gregor Richardson/ODT files
Invercargill City Council should not use "hard-earned ratepayer money for social experiments", a New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union representative says.

The comment from union policy adviser James Ross followed a statement from Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark early this week to the Otago Daily Times saying he would like to trial a four-and-a-half-day working week for council staff in an effort to increase productivity and address a staffing shortage.

If the council went ahead with the plan, a fulltime worker would work about 36 hours a week in four days but be paid for 40 hours.

Mr Ross said he was quite disappointed with Mr Clark’s idea because there was little credible evidence — if any — that reducing hours would increase productivity among council workers.

"New Zealand already has some of the lowest productivity among the developed world and frankly, it's just not credible that our productivity is going to increase 11% overnight.

"Councillors shouldn't be using hard-earned ratepayer money for social experiments and they deserve to know that they're getting the fulltime council that they're already paying well over the odds for."

He said some councils in the United Kingdom had attempted to reduce hours for their workers but had not had good outcomes.

Mr Ross believed services would inevitably deteriorate and costs rise.

"It's absolutely not fair to expect ratepayers to pay for more for worse services.

"If there were credible evidence that this absolutely would boost productivity by over 11%, as would be required to keep the same level of service, then fair enough, but frankly, the evidence just doesn't exist."

Mr Clark’s idea was to undertake a trial period and conduct reviews to check if the new settings worked for both the staff and the council.

He also believed the initiative could attract more staff, as filling vacancies was a major challenge.