National | Te Reo Māori

Nicola Willis’ plans to scrap te reo allowances for public service ‘disastrous’ - PSA

Public Services Minister Nicola Willis

The Public Service Association (PSA) says it is deeply disappointed by the threat from the new Public Services Minister Nicola Willis to remove allowances recognising competency in te reo across the public sector.

Willis told Radio New Zealand she would “ask for advice on how we could stop these bonuses being negotiated into future collective agreements.

“While we would not have initiated the bonuses ourselves, and while we do not support them, we are left with little choice but to implement them given they are contained in binding collective agreements.”

The PSA’s acting Te Kaihautū Māori, Marcia Puru, says the PSA is “incredibly disappointed” that one of the first public comments from the new minister is to attack allowances that are deeply embedded in the public service.

“It sends a message that the value of our reo, the value of our tikanga, our processes, are not recognised by this new government already in its new tenure. We’re actually asking them to take heed and learn from what’s happened in the past and the great work that has already been done to establish in recognising and honouring Te Tiriri o Waitangi.”

Willis mislabelled the allowances as ‘bonuses’

Puru says Willis has deliberately mislabelled the allowances as bonuses when they are simply recognising skills and competency.

“To not reward people for having these skills is just ludicrous when this is exactly how the private sector operates. Thousands of New Zealanders every day are learning the beautiful language of te reo so it’s hard to understand why Ms Willis has taken this stance beyond some misguided attempt to save money.”

Puru says the government had no consultation with the PSA about its plans to remove the allowances.

“That’s why we think that the minister’s actions and statements thus far to seek how they will look to remove the allowances in future just is disastrous and not honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi at all and for members of Māori across Aotearoa.”

‘We will rally’

The PSA is New Zealand’s largest trade union, representing more than 90,000 workers across central government, state-owned enterprises, local councils, health boards and community groups. Puru says many of them are also disappointed and angry to hear Willis’ plans.

“I have no doubt that we’ll rally and all our allies to support the kaupapa of the day. It’s all about honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi, te ao Māori approach, tikanga Māori and it’s all part of our culture. Te reo first and foremost is an official language of Aotearoa and that should be recognised, so we’ll be standing up at any front.”

PSA national secretary Kerry Davies urges Willis “to take a breath and concentrate on what really matters”.

“The government seems to want to reduce people’s pay and conditions with this attack on te reo and the repeal of fair pay agreements. We need to be building skills, not denigrating skills and competence. Instead, we have a government hell-bent on cutting public services to fund tax cuts without thinking through the consequences of its actions.”

Davies also says the PSA supports Kīngi Tūheitia’s call today for a national hui for unity.

“This is a welcome positive step so we can debate the policies of the new government which threaten the progress we have made in honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi.”

For more on this story watch Te Ao Marama on Whakaata Māori 6.30pm today.