The value of days off owed to WA public servants is exceeding $3 billion for the first time - a year after Colin Barnett vowed to get on top of the spiralling liability.

Last week's annual report on the State's finances revealed public servants are owed $3.2 billion worth of holidays, including $1.05 billion of annual leave and $1.7 billion long service leave.

A year ago, when the liability had leapt $250 million in a year to $2.87 billion, the Premier wanted department chiefs to make sure public servants took their leave and returned to work refreshed.

Yesterday, faced with a further $330 million blowout rather than a reduction in leave liability, Mr Barnett conceded he had been ignored.

As a result, the Government last week ordered the public service to reduce its leave liability to June levels and cap it, as well as lowering the ceiling on full-time equivalent employee numbers by not filling vacancies.

The measures are designed to save the Government $328 million in 2012-13.

"Leave is there for people to have a break from work and I don't find it a good policy at all if public servants continue to work throughout the year and don't take leave," Mr Barnett said yesterday.

WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive James Pearson said that Government departments needed to manage their employees' leave just like businesses did.

"An increase of 11 per cent on last year's total clearly shows not enough has been done to manage this significant financial load," he said.

Community and Public Sector Union secretary Toni Walkington said public servants wanted to take leave but, when vacancies were not filled, it was difficult to juggle workloads.

"Unless the Barnett Government is willing to accept reduced services from the public service and they don't seem to be happy to do that," she said.

Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said the Government had failed to get on top of leave liability.

The West Australian

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