25 Jun 2015

Public sector bullying worse than ever - lawyer

7:29 pm on 25 June 2015

The union for government workers says it is not surprised by claims of bullying at the Ministry of Health - and says it has always been a problem within the public sector.

New Zealand parliament; beehive

New Zealand Parliament Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Labour's Annette King has received a letter from a senior person within the ministry accusing some executives of being nasty and abusive to other staff.

Radio New Zealand News was also sent a letter this afternoon by a support group of the partners of ACC staff, who said bullying was a big problem in certain ACC branches, and was not being tackled.

Public Service Association (PSA) national secretary Erin Polarczuk said the union knew there were some problems within the Ministry of Health, and was working with the State Services Commission to produce guidelines on bullying for agencies.

She said the PSA could not specify whether it has had complaints of this nature before.

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie said bullying was unacceptable, and he was seeking further information on the accusations so they could be fairly assessed.

Wellington employment lawyer Hazel Armstrong said bullying in the public sector was worse now than ever before.

She said workplace bullying could be quite subtle, and many people were vulnerable because they were too scared to speak up for fear of losing their job.

"The kinds of bullying that I see would be setting tasks that the person cannot achieve in the time availiable. Or just not giving enough support to the person. And, particularly in Wellington, you see constant restructuring and having to apply for your own job."