Spats between MPs and their staff are proving to be very expensive:
The Taxpayers’ Union has released figures showing that MPs are chewing through more than $65,000 per month on payouts to avoid messy employment grievances.
“While every other New Zealander must follow the letter of employment law, MPs are often ignoring it and having the poor taxpayer fund the resulting payouts,” says Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union.
“Many of the payouts result from MPs sacking staff on the spot. It appears that parliamentary officials offer generous settlements to avoid cases going to the Employment Relations Authority.”
The Taxpayers’ Union is aware of two examples of instant dismissal due to a minor party leader being unwilling to hear his employee’s response to minor allegations made by a colleague. The former employees were offered confidential payouts from Parliamentary Service well above what the individuals were advised they would be awarded in court.
“Parliamentary Service is effectively buying the silence of former staff, some of whom have been treated appallingly by MPs.”
“Parliamentary Service contracts include an instant dismissal clause when there is an ‘irreconcilable breakdown’ of the relationship with the employee’s MP. The legality of the clause is questionable and it appears that the Parliamentary Service offers these generous settlements to avoid them being challenged.”
The six months of severance pay figures total $395,941 and show the average payout is approximately $20,000.
Ministerial Services has refused to provide the equivalent information for ministerial staff. A complaint regarding that request is currently before the Ombudsman.
PARLIAMENTARY SEVERANCE PAYMENTS
Severance payments made to former parliamentary (non-ministerial) staff in the 6 months ending 13 November 2013.
• Support staff working directly to Members of Parliament: 11 payments totalling $122,935
• Other Parliamentary Staff: 9 payments totalling $273,006.
Paying employees to leave isn’t confined to parliamentary service.
It is usually the easiest and fastest way to solve a problem and it can be the cheapest.
However, a large sum of public money has been spent on this way and the Taxpayers’ Union is right to question it.
If these payments are happening because MPs are doing wrong then that is a problem which must be addressed.
However, one of the questions that should be asked is whether it is the fault of the people involved or the laws under which they have to work?
It is very difficult to sack someone these days, even when they are not doing what they should be the way they should be doing it, creating more work and stress for other staff and the employer, and costing money through their incompetence.
Employees need protection from bad employers and MPs should not be responsible for wasting public money because they ignore employment law nor should they be leaving parliamentary services to clean up messes they have made.
However, good employers shouldn’t have to keep bad employees or pay large sums to compensate them for terminating their employment when they aren’t doing what they are paid to do to the standard required.