Air safety experts deserve a safe workplace: systemic reform urgently needed
21 May 2020
The people who work in our Civil Aviation Authority and our Aviation Security Service are tasked with keeping New Zealanders safe when we fly, but the Ministerial Review released today lays out in disturbing detail how a toxic culture of bullying and harassment made them unsafe in their own workplace.
It took sustained pressure from whistle-blowers, media and unions before awareness of this toxic culture reached high enough in government for action to be taken, and a long process of reform lies ahead.
The Public Service Association represents workers at CAA and Avsec, and while the union welcomes the Review it says culture change can only be achieved through reforms that go deeper and wider than individual disciplinary procedures.
"We welcome the release of the Ministerial Review into CAA’s organisational culture. The document makes for tough reading, and we stand in solidarity with all our members who had to endure these conditions for so long," says Glenn Barclay, National Secretary of the Public Service Association.
"Progress has only been made thanks to the bravery and determination of workers who chose to stick their necks out and fight not only for themselves, but for others around them. Changing an organisation’s culture doesn’t happen overnight, and we will continue to support CAA and Avsec workers to the hilt for as long as it takes."
While aviation traffic has declined significantly since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis, CAA and Avsec staff have continued to work both in our airports and aviation and in other safety related sectors throughout lockdown.
While these workers have been busy keeping New Zealanders safe both from home and in the field, they have also faced uncertainty and anxiety about their jobs and look forward to decisive action being taken to improve them.
A separate inquiry led by independent QCs into bullying and harassment at Avsec specifically is expected to be conclude next month, and its findings will inform further steps in the reform process.
"In the PSA’s submission to the Ministerial Review we pointed out that not only have bullying and harassment been long standing problems, whistle-blowers who challenged this were treated badly. We also supported individual members who made their own submissions, and we commend them for doing so," says Mr Barclay.
"We welcome the new attitude from management and note their commitment to recognise the report fully, improve working conditions and engage properly with staff and their unions in implementing the change programme. The best outcome for everyone will be if the whole organisation is reformed and improved from top to bottom, rather than select individuals being scapegoated for the problems."