Public service image - gliding on

In 1981 the popular TV comedy series Gliding On, written by Roger Hall, satirised the public service. Hall's vision, if it was ever true, of an inefficient pen-pushing bureaucracy where everything stopped for morning and afternoon tea lingered in the public mind long after the series ended. However, as he admitted to the PSA Journal in 1995, it was no longer true.

From the 1995 Journal:

‘Mum, I can’t talk now, it’s tea break. I’ll ring you this afternoon.’ It’s lines like that from Gliding On that have inspired more than a few critics to accuse Roger Hall of contrributing to the public mood which paved the way for a decade of mass privatisation and the gutting of the public sector

Hall isn’t sure whether there’s any truth to the claim. ‘I’ve certainly been accused of that - a parliamentarian even raised the issue in the House.’

What he is sure about is that it’s all gone too far. ‘The old bureaucratic lunacies have been replaced by a whole new set of management lunacies. People are being treated abominably.’

Hall would like to think that his recent work Market Forces will ‘plant a seed’ in people’s minds that sees them begin to question that current set of lunacies. ‘How have we let management get so powerful? It’s just madness.

‘There’s a scene in the play where one of the characters says to the chief executive, “Your employment bonus could have kept two or three people_on.” And that’s what has happened, with salaries at the top just going through the roof while the staff have become more and more undervalued. It’s very short sighted and we will pay for it in the end.

‘I call it “company macho”. These hard-bitten guys who think it’s wonderful to get some redundancies under their belts.’

Hall says the current public sector industrial unrest is a clear sign that public servants have been ‘goaded beyond endurance’.

‘People are working ludicrously hard. And the paper war seen have got worse instead of better. He points to secretaries at University of Otago, where he used  to lecture, as an example. ‘They've always worked well beyond the of duty - often working well after 5pm and so on. One of the i managers decided it was time begin enforcing the 10-minute breaks. They went from bein very loyal lot to people totally disenchanted.’

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