UK civil service strikes threaten borders and ports over Christmas; Australian ethics index reveals drop in public trust in government: policy & delivery news in brief

By on 24/11/2022 | Updated on 24/11/2022
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Global Government Forum’s weekly digest of the news you need to know but might have missed.

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UK civil servants plan month-long strike over Christmas

Civil servants are set to strike in their thousands next month in protest of pay and jobs and pensions, according to the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).

In a co-ordinated move across government departments including the Home Office and Department for Transport that aims to impact ports, borders, and mobility, civil servants are expected to walk out for a month starting from mid-December

Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said the that action had potential to cause “significant disruption” to people over the festive period.

“I hope people can travel this Christmas without disruption but that’s down to [the UK prime minister] Rishi Sunak.”

A walk out of thousands of officials working at borders and ports as well as those whose jobs involve issuing driving licences and tests is likely to form the initial action. These will include Defra’s rural payments agency, which takes responsibility for oversees payments to farmers.

In the weeks leading up to the decision, UK nurses voted to strike for the first time to demand better pay. Over months prior, rail workers staged walkouts, and last month university staff voted for industrial action to highlight the cost-of-living crisis.

Ahead of a meeting with minister for the Cabinet Office Jeremy Quin, Serwotka said the power remained with government to stop the planned actions.

“Instead of talking in soundbites, what the government really should do is say we are going to do something to stop the workers they employ using foodbanks over Christmas.”

Read more: Rishi Sunak halts plan for 91,000 UK civil service job cuts

Australia sees public trust in government decline in new ethics index

Public confidence in Australia’s government and public services sank in the latest Governance Institute of Australia ethics index to 38, down eight points from the 2021 (46) and 18 points from the 2020 (56).

The index tracks ethical perception each year. A score is devised from an analysis of a survey of 1,000 participants to provide a view of the overall perception of the level of ethical behaviour in Australian society, with a higher score indicating greater faith.

In this year’s annual index, the overall ethics score for Australian society revealed “a significant fall” of three points from 45 last year to 42 in 2022, leading to the conclusion that sectors broadly showed an ethical “softening”.

Megan Motto, CEO of Governance Institute, said the problem required direct action.

“Given strong ethics are an indicator of a strong, well-functioning society, this is a major concern and this year’s results must serve as a red flag reminder of the importance of trust and ethics at all levels of our society,” she said.

Motto attributed a sharp rise in the 2020 ethics index to a coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic where she said communities “were all in this together”.

“We put our trust in our governments and the medical profession and this was largely rewarded. But we have seen an unravelling since,” she said.
Pointing to other ethical challenges, she added: “We see the other problems around us in the harsh light of day, such as health advice versus politics, multiple corporate and government scandals, workplace issues such as the return to the office and the ongoing ‘Great Resignation’, plus growing concern [about] issues such as climate change.

Proportion of women civil service leaders improves – but only one G20 country has achieved gender parity in top jobs

Less than one in three senior civil servants across the governments of G20 countries are women, new research from Global Government Forum has found.

The latest Women Leaders Index found that only one G20 country – Canada – has reached gender parity in the top five grades of its public service (at 51.1%), and just four more are within 10 percentage points of doing so.

However, there has been improvement – the G20 mean (29.3%) has increased by 1.6 percentage points since our last Index in 2020 and by 6.0 points since our first 10 years ago.

The long-running Women Leaders Index is a league table ranking G20, EU and OECD countries on the proportion of women in senior roles within their national civil services. As well as tracking progress over time, it includes comparisons with women in government, women politicians, and women on private sector boards, alongside interviews with public service leaders in two of the top performing countries – Canada and South Africa.    

Those leading the G20 pack behind Canada, are Australia and South Africa – which tie in second place – the UK, Brazil, and Mexico and the European Commission, which tie in fifth place. Mexico has increased the representation of women in civil service leadership positions the most of all G20 nations, by a dramatic 24.3 percentage points over the last decade, while South Africa has made the most improvement in the two years since the last Index – a jump of 7.2 points.

Bringing up the G20 rear are Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea, China and Turkey, in which representation of women in the senior civil service is between 2.5% and 11.7%.

Countries including Germany, Italy, France and the US reside in the middle of the G20 ranking, with women accounting for between 32.0% and 38.0% of top roles in each.  

Read more: Proportion of women civil service leaders improves internationally

Five organisations call for Australian renewable energy storage target

Five climate action backing bodies have pushed for the adoption of an emissions-slashing renewable energy storage target in Australia, as the government looks for ways to secure cheaper energy prices for Australian consumers.

The Smart Energy Council, Climate Council, Clean Energy Investor Group, Solar Citizens, and the Advance Materials Battery Council put out a statement on Monday in which they said that a storage target for renewables should be incorporated into processes for implementing wind and solar projects.

The Climate Council found in its analysis that a storage target for renewable energy would unlock private investment worth AUD$42bn (US$28.3bn) and create 100,000 jobs.

In their statement, the five bodies’ statement said: “A renewable energy storage target would lower emissions and increase the amount of electricity available in the electricity market from renewable sources.” They added that this would be achieved through “a combined regulatory and market-based model, similar to the very successful renewable energy target”.

“A national target for adding energy-storage technology such as batteries and pumped hydro to the grid would incentivise major new investment in firming capacity for renewables. To rapidly cut emissions and reach over 80% renewables by 2030, Australia needs to bring online at least 18 Gigawatts (GW) of firming capacity to back up clean, cheap wind and solar.”

Read more: Why COP27 needs to shine a light on climate change adaptation

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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