US government works to attract tech talent amid industry layoffs; Singapore civil servants to receive above-inflation pay rise: management & workforce news in brief

By on 01/12/2022 | Updated on 01/12/2022
More than 85,000 US tech sector workers have been laid off in 2022. Photo by Tim Gouw via Pexels

Global Government Forum’s weekly digest of the news you need to know but might have missed.

US Department of Veterans Affairs bids for more competitive salaries to entice laid-off private sector tech specialists

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – one of the biggest government agencies in the US – is aiming to attract some of the tens of thousands of specialists that have been made redundant from tech giants such as Amazon, Meta and Twitter this year.

Governments around the world have been struggling to attract new recruits, particularly in technology areas that are vital to their digital transformation efforts to make efficiencies and improve public services.

According to Crunchbase News, more than 85,000 US tech sector workers have been laid off in 2022 so far from firms large and small. VA is working to entice some of these to federal government through targeted outreach and more competitive pay rewards.

The widespread layoffs present the department with an opportunity to “bring on board talent and build up a diverse workforce,” Nathan Tierney, the chief human talent management officer in VA’s Office of Information and Technology, told Nextgov.

Read more: US government set to miss cybersecurity talent hiring target

Tierney said his team had identified 4,900 potential employees using analytics tools on LinkedIn and other platforms and that they were trying to encourage these candidates to attend virtual hiring fairs.

VA has proposed a special salary rate that would increase technical specialists’ pay and “close the gap between private sector pay and what the federal government was paying by 60%”, Tierney said, adding that – if approved by the Office of Personnel Management – this would also benefit 75,000 existing federal workers.

In addition, VA has updated its career website to make job descriptions more familiar to those in the tech industry and to highlight benefits such as student loan relief, pensions and retention incentives.

Most of the new hires it hopes to make – and 60% of the department’s total workforce – are expected to work from home.

“And that’s not just because of COVID,” Tierney told Nextgov. “If you want to be competitive, particularly in the engineering and tech fields, you’ve got to create a place for people to work where they’re comfortable.”

He added that he was excited to be able to “create that landing pad for people to have some public service, and to take what they’ve learned in industry and bring it here to take us to that next level”.

Public sector pay rises cannot match inflation, says UK transport secretary as strikes loom

UK transport secretary Mark Harper has said that inflation-matching pay rises for public sector workers are “unaffordable”, raising the likelihood of imminent strikes across the country’s civil service, National Health Service, and rail network.

Harper told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme the government did not have a “bottomless pit” of money to meet workers’ demands: “We want to try and give all the workers in the public sector who work very hard decent pay rises, but they can’t be inflation-busting pay rises.

“There simply isn’t the money to pay for those given the context. We haven’t seen those in the private sector either – the private sector pay rises have generally been settled below the level of inflation, which I accept is difficult for people.”

Read more: Rishi Sunak halts plan for 91,000 UK civil service job cuts – but staff reductions could still be coming

His comments come as thousands of civil servants from the Home Office, transport and other departments – including those at ports and borders – plan for a month-long strike from mid-December that would disrupt travel over the Christmas period.

Industrial action was supported by more than 85% of Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union members in a ballot that ended last month, with more than 124 employer areas reaching the 50% turnout threshold.

The union is pushing for a 10% pay rise – far more than the 2% pay increase cap imposed by the government – better pensions and improved redundancy terms.

In addition to central government walkouts, nurses are due to stage their first ever UK-wide strike this month with train drivers, postal workers and potentially teachers also planning industrial over pay and conditions in the coming weeks.

Singapore civil servants to receive inflation-exceeding pay rise

Almost all civil servants in Singapore will receive above-inflation pay adjustments, according to minister in charge of the public service Chan Chun Sing.  

Chan told parliament last week that increases from a recent salary review coupled with annual salary increments and ‘annual variable component’ (AVC) payments would more than exceed the city-state’s 5.1% inflation rate for all those who meet the criteria.

The Public Service Division announced that civil servants would receive a year-end payment in recognition of their hard work and the economic outlook, equivalent to a 1.1-month year-end bonus, while junior grade officers would get an additional one-time payment of S$700 (US$515).

Taken together with the mid-year payments, civil servants will have received a total of 1.45 months in full-year AVC payments, with those in more junior grades receiving an additional sum of up to S$1,100 (US$810) in 2022.

Chan said there might be a “very, very small” number of people who do not meet the performance criteria and would therefore not receive an above-inflation pay increment.

Read more: ‘We do not stick to conventional wisdom’: five minutes with… Singapore’s Ministry of Finance permanent secretary Tan Ching Yee

Canadian public service headcount set to rise

Canada’s public service headcount is expected to grow to 409,000 over the next five years – an increase of 18,000 personnel on 2021 figures, the country’s parliamentary budget officer has said.

In the government’s latest spending plans, Yves Giroux estimated that an extra C$2.3bn (US$1.7bn) was necessary to cover the salaries and benefits of employees in Canada’s growing bureaucracy. This would push the total wage bill to C$55bn (US$40.9bn) this year.

Since 2015, when Justin Trudeau became prime minister, Canada has invested heavily in expanding its public service workforce, a trend that ramped up significantly with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

According to Giroux, the Canadian public service headcount grew from 342,000 in 2015-2016 to 391,000 in 2020-2021 and personnel spending had increased by an average of 6.7% a year.

In Canada’s autumn economic statement, the big winning departments in terms of budget for hiring included the Canada Border Services Agency, which will get C$137m (US$101m) to recruit and train additional border guards, and Veterans Affairs, which will get C$115m (US$85.5m) towards hiring new and retaining existing case managers. Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), meanwhile, is expected to recruit for 1,250 new positions aimed at reducing its backlogs.

Giroux said that all signs pointed to an effort by government to expand its capacity. “With the amounts that were announced in or before the fall economic statement, oh yes, they are growing the public service,” he said.

Read more: ‘It’s called public service for a reason; you are serving something bigger than yourself’: meet Stephen Burt, chief data officer of Canada

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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