Austerity drive hits some public service agencies harder than others

Staff in the departments of communications, social services and industry were more likely than other public servants to lose their jobs in recent months.

Most government agencies are currently shedding workers to cope with budget cuts imposed by the previous Labor administration.

However, an analysis of Public Service Gazette notices over the past six months suggests some agencies copped a far harder blow than others.

The gazettes reported 925 staff departures in the second half of last year.

The exit notices, which exclude retirements and resignations, covered 580 redundancies, 83 medical redundancies (staff no longer fit enough to work), 41 "incentive to retire" payouts to senior executives, and 28 sackings: 15 for underperformance and 13 for misconduct.

A further 185 jobs were terminated for unspecified reasons.


The gazette data significantly understates actual departures because some agencies are late to report staff changes. The data also excludes temporary government staff, many of whom lost work recently when their contract expired.

However, the large number of job losses already notified in the gazettes suggests Treasurer Joe Hockey will be able to report a very steep reduction of the government's workforce in the May budget.

The bureaucracy's three biggest workplaces – the Department of Human Services, the Taxation Office and the Defence Department – were responsible for almost half of the reported departures.

However, the Communications Department retrenched or sacked 42 staff, a particularly high number given it had only 600 employees in June.

The Department of Social Services shed 87 staff from a workforce of about 3390, while the Industry Department dismissed 73 of its 5190 workers.

The bureaucracy's attrition rate – the speed at which staff retire or resign – has dropped markedly since the election, with public servants prefering to keep their job or await a payout.

Last month, the Coalition was forced to drop its pledge to shed 12,000 jobs without making redundancy payments, a decision Finance Minister Mathias Cormann blamed on Labor's "blanket and secret staffing cuts".

He instead asked the commission of audit to advise on which and how many staff to cut. The commission will report to the government later this month.

Community and Public Sector Union assistant national secretary Loiuse Persse said it was always doubtful the government could reach its target of 12,000 job losses through natural attrition.

"Since the Abbott government came to power, more than 3500 federal public service job cuts have been announced and there is little sign of that slowing up," she said on Sunday.

She warned that the commission was likely to recommend a job loss target far higher than the Coalition's pledge.

"The impact on jobs and services will be far reaching and severe."