Workplace "speak up" culture must be promoted after Joanne Harrison probe - PSA

The Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi welcomes the findings of the investigation into treatment of whistleblowers at the Ministry of Transport.

Deputy State Services Commissioner Sandi Beatie found four former Ministry staff members were disadvantaged after they raised concerns about the conduct of convicted fraudster Joanne Harrison.

Three were made redundant, and one missed out on a pay increase.

The PSA says the report by Deputy State Services Commissioner Sandi Beatie sheds much-needed light onto Ms Harrison’s behaviour - and offers closure to the staff members who raised the alarm.

"Public servants must be able to voice genuine concerns without fear of the consequences, and agencies must promote a culture of listening to staff - not just senior managers," PSA Acting National Secretary Kerry Davies says.

"In this case, that clearly did not happen.

"Ms Harrison’s actions were a deliberate attempt to punish people who attempted to reveal her fraudulent behaviour.

"We are also gravely concerned at her attempts to discredit an employee because they were previously a union delegate and this appears to have gone unchallenged.

"This speaks volumes about the culture of the workplace.

"We are pleased all four have received an apology and three have agreed settlement packages, with the fourth to receive compensation."

The PSA also welcomes new standards proposed by the State Services Commission around speaking up in the wider public service.

"The standards set out what’s expected of both employers and employees in the public service, and highlight the importance of disclosing wrongdoing to a healthy democracy," Ms Davies says.

"These should made into binding and enduring commitments that will promote the integrity of the public service - and ensure workers are protected.

"We agree with Ms Beatie’s recommendation that the Protected Disclosures Act be reviewed, and would particularly advise the threshold for protection be lowered.

"On top of this, the Act needs to be actively promoted, in order to create and maintain a culture of employees who feel free to speak out - and management that will listen."