We broadly support the findings and recommendations of Debbie Francis’ independent review into Bullying and Harassment in the New Zealand Parliamentary Workplace. We want to thank staff for taking the difficult and brave step of making their voices heard in this review.
The report highlights the unique and high-pressure environment of this workplace where an unusual employment relationship exists that has the effect of leaving staff extremely vulnerable.
There are several proposed actions outlined in the report that we believe, if taken urgently, can make a meaningful difference to address the systemic bullying and harassment in the parliamentary workplace. These are:
1. Appoint an Independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Conduct
– There needs to be an independent whistle-blowing mechanism for bullying and harassment in the workplace that puts accountability above political interests.
2. Establish a Sanctions Working Group
– We support training for Members of Parliament (MPs) to become good managers but we also want to ensure there are protections for staff entering offices where there is a high-turnover of staff.
– We want to see additional training and mentoring for offices where this occurs before further permanent staff are hired.
– Agencies should be responsible for temporary staff and their wellbeing in these offices.
– Where inappropriate behaviour persists, the public should be made aware of a member’s behaviour in extreme circumstances.
3. Identify a single employer for each job role
– The Review’s recommendations go into significant detail outlining a new HR system but we feel that until there is absolute clarity on who is the employer for each of the roles at parliament there will be no accountability.
4. Replace current events-based contracts for Member support and political staff with new fixed term employment agreements for the duration of a parliamentary term
Unfortunately, some of the recommendations ignore the reality of political parties who need to function in the parliamentary workplace.
The Francis Review also mentions remuneration reviews for staff who work long hours in an extraordinary environment. It is important to note that some political parties have the means to provide additional benefits to staff and others do not.
It is our view that it is critical that an independent authority oversees remuneration for staff instead of political parties, who are incentivised to keep staff wages low compared with the rest of the public service due to the media scrutiny that any increases via agencies would attract.
This is the collective lived experience of staff who believe that these are the changes that need to be a priority for the next steps in the response to the Review.
For more info or comment: Paul Tolich 027 593 5595