Monday, 29 August
Kia Ora whaanau,
Last 2.5 weeks have been busy and I wanted to start by thanking everyone for the immense amount of support you have shown me – from the bouquets of flowers you have sent to my offices in Hamilton and Wellington, to the food you have dropped at my house and the kind messages of support you have sent to me through various channels.
There has been a lot of news around what has happened and I am sure you have your opinion on where you stand on this. You will also have many questions.
I wanted to address some of the points that have been raised in the media especially re the staffing issues. I had to make sure that by replying to these accusations online I wasn’t breaking any rules as these are part of an employment dispute.
STAFF 1 – AB
Firstly, I want to make it clear that I was the one who raised concerns re staff, not the other way around. I raised 66 specific issues re ‘Staff Member AB’ with Parliamentary Services but nothing was done to look into the issue, resolve it or to provide me support. These 66 specific issues included incompetence in doing basic tasks eg making calendar entries, showing up to work on time and booking travel arrangements, to more major issues like the staff member being caught drinking in my Wellington office, not showing up to work at all (without leave), at other times coming late to work and leaving early on multiple occasions, switching off phone and disappearing on precinct without leave to attend cocktails with other political parties, deleting a whole heap of email folders because this staff member couldn’t be bothered reading and actioning these emails, not doing timely finance receipt coding and not picking up calls from constituents in order to avoid work.
This staff member was employed part time by me and part time by another MP. The other MP had been getting this staff member to do household chores and then gave them TOIL (time off in lieu) during weekday – I became aware of this as the staff member was shared between us. I raised this concern with the Relationship Manager of Parliamentary Services in confidence. I was worried about taxpayers’ money being wasted but also worried that this shared ‘Staff Member AB’ was not at work when on TOIL which affected the ability of my constituents to get the right service. Part of my complaint re wasting of money was also focussed around this staff being invited to travel by the other MP to an electorate for an event. Since there were 6 other staff available in that region between various Labour MPs my concern was that there was no need to fly a staff member and pay for their travel and accommodation for multiple days just for them to attend an event in an electorate. Since they worked part time for me, them not being at work in Wellington while traveling to an electorate meant that again this also had direct impact on my office and the workload esp when their trip was not necessary. Instead of investigating this complaint, the Relationship Manager from Parliamentary Services who is a staunch Labour Member went on to directly tell on me to the Labour Whips Office.
There were two parts to my complaint – of another MP using (our shared) staff to do household chores (never addressed even in Parliamentary Service’s recent press statement) and another of the need to fly a staff member to an event where they would add no value at all while being away from their work in Wellington. Instead of looking into these matters, Parliamentary Services which is a supposedly independent agency threw me in front of the Labour Party Whips who continued to escalate their bullying of me. Directly related to this complaint were the comments from Duncan Webb re Party being more important than Country and aggressively threatening me for going to the Parliamentary Services and raising these concerns.
As issues with this staff member arose, I was also made aware of the fact that they had in their previous workplace tweeted out names of a victim in a workplace sexual harassment case. This info was available to them because they worked at the reception of this organisation and had intercepted an email which they shouldn’t have. After this incidence they had applied for a job with multiple MPs but since others were aware of the history they weren’t hired. I wasn’t aware of these issues but one person later on ended up providing me with the screenshots of those deleted tweets which were concerning. ‘Staff Member AB’ had signed a document in which they had clearly said that they had never had issues at previous work but this was not true. I was concerned re this staff members’ access to constituent cases folder so requested IT to halt this and raised concerns with Parliamentary Services re the information that had been provided to me including the screenshots of (now deleted) Twitter posts. Parliamentary Services as usual ignored this issue, and did not think it breached the contract this staff member had signed when they started work. In addition to this Parliamentary Services and the Labour Whips got very aggressive with me re blocking access to constituent case files for this ‘Staff Member AB.’
For this specific staff member here are some important questions to ask.
Why was there no independent investigation done despite me raising 66 issues with Parliamentary Services and with the Labour Whips? – You want evidence, I have a trail of emails with dates, time, incidence etc of when this staff wasn’t at work, when they were drinking at work, when they deleted the email folders without actioning them etc. I also have the screenshots provided by other people of their tweets releasing names of the victim of the sexual harassment case. I am happy to provide all the material to an independent inquiry.
In August last year things got to a point where I raised with Labour Whips and Parliamentary Services that I will have to raise the lid on all the issues publicly about not only how incompetent my staff was but also how incompetent both of these organisations were. This was the first time Labour Whips wanted to “resolve the issue” and their proposed solution was that I pay this staff member out and show them the door. I refused to do that on principle and stood my ground – why would I pay out a staff member who has not been able to do their basic tasks. If I was in the wrong, I would have taken this option but as I have always said I raised significant number of issues re this staff and both Parliamentary Services (all the way up to the CEO) and Labour Whips failed to genuinely look into this issue and resolve it. Instead they continued to bring me to meetings on short notice with no support person and kept shouting at me. I stood my ground and did not pay this person out.
Of course this person has gone to the media and made claims against me. They were directly involved in the waste of taxpayers money as raised with Parliamentary Services. I had raised 66 issues re this staff not only with Relationship Manager, RM’s boss, the CEO of Parliamentary Services, multiple Labour Whips but also with the Chief of Staff of PMO.
And yet I am the only one here who keeps saying let’s get an independent public investigation so that facts can come out and names can be cleared.
STAFF 2 – CD
This “Staff Member CD” was on a contract. There were major issues that were identified.
On one occasion this staff member was supposed to come to work at 8.30am but advised me and other staff that due to having an extra university class they would instead come to work in the afternoon. In the afternoon they said that they would be at work in a few minutes. They didn’t show up to work for 30mins, an hour and even two hours after they had messaged saying they were on their way.
I was in Wellington and had meetings that day but a different staff member who was in Hamilton was quite concerned that this ‘Staff Member CD’ had not shown up to work despite saying they would be there shortly. The ‘Staff Member CD’ couldn’t be contacted either by phone call or text. The other staff member in Hamilton then contacted Parliamentary Services as they were worried that the person might have had an accident as they were not responding to messages. This staff member also tried to get Parliamentary Services to get in touch with Staff Member CD’s next of kin but those contact details were not available. The ‘Staff Member CD’ eventually showed up to work drunk in the evening – many hours after they were supposed to start the job at 8.30am. Since I was in Wellington I did not witness them being drunk but the Hamilton based staff member laid a written complaint re this incidence and they were assured that there would be an investigation but nothing was ever done about it. Even on the Thursday a few weeks ago when I wrote the Op-Ed Parliamentary Services refused to look into this complaint despite previously saying multiple times that the complaint would be looked into.
On another occasion a constituent from Flagstaff contacted my office saying that they were unhappy that I was wasting taxpayer’s money as someone had thrown a whole heap of magnets and flyers on the side of the road. I travelled to this constituent’s house in Flagstaff and apologised for what had happened. I took photos of the flyers and magnets that had been thrown on the side of the road and advised the Relationship Manager of it. The ‘Staff Member CD’ had gone home at 11am and couldn’t be contacted. Later they advised me in person that they had gone home to take a nap. The email from constituent is available, photos of flyers and magnets that were discarded by this staff on the side of the road are available. There is a lot of evidence but still Parliamentary Services refuse to look into this.
In addition to these incidences, this ‘Staff Member CD’ was twice caught calling their own family member and telling them about constituent case details because the family member knew the constituent well. This was flagged multiple times with the Relationship Manager as there were concerns re breach of constituent’s information.
This same ‘staff member CD’ once took a photo of a constituent in the community and shared it with their own family because again the constituent was known to the family member of ‘Staff Member CD.’ It was made clear to this staff member that boundaries needed to be respected and if their family knew anyone in a personal capacity it was not ok to share the information with them. My office also received multiple frustrated complaints against this ‘Staff Member CD’ and their work ethics from a church, a school and an NGO.
Eventually when the job contract for ‘Staff Member CD’ came to an end, I advised them that I was not going to renew it. They wanted to continue working for me but I did not renew their contract – this is an important point. At this stage they started talking about how even though they were a contractor they thought they were really an employee and had been seeking legal advice because they wanted to continue in the job. As I said I did not extend this contract as there were multiple issues as outlined above that had been picked up during their time in my office.
A few months later this ‘Staff Member CD’ asked the Team Leader of the office for a job reference. The Team Leader consulted me and the only thing I said to them was that we have hired staff who had been given references from previous workplaces which did not reflect their work ethics, so it was important to give genuine reference and feedback if we are asked by any future employers. My understanding is that the Team Leader was contacted by this new potential workplace and they did advise them about the issues surrounding this ‘Staff Member CD’ and they did not end up hiring ‘Staff Member CD’.
So ask yourself this – why has Parliamentary Services not agreed for an independent public investigation? I have all the evidence with dates and times to show when these events took place. I am the one repeatedly asking for a fair trial, but Parliamentary Services, Labour Whips and PMO don’t want a full independent investigation.
And take note of the fact that this staff member wanted to continue working for me to the point that they had been seeking legal advice on how to extend their contract, while I was the one who did not extend the contract.
So now they say I have bullied them, while they wanted to keep working for me, while I have all these complaints in writing from constituents and other staff re their drinking habits at work, shoddy work ethics and being AWOL from work throwing away all the flyers on the side of the road and going home. And in the end they didn’t get a job at a reputed private company because a true reference of their work was provided. So is it a surprise that this person is now calling me a bully?
STAFF 3 – EF
‘Staff Member EF’ was hired from another city on a fixed term contract job. They had previously done a short term contract for me remotely and had visited the Hamilton office a few times and were used to the workplace as well as my style of working along with that of my other staff. When the new fixed term contract job was offered they moved to Hamilton.
After working two days, ‘Staff Member EF’ offered to resign on day 3 of the job advising the Team Leader in tears that they were missing their family (in a different city) and didn’t think it was a good idea to move away from their parents. They were also concerned that they had taken up a job which they now thought they were not competent to do.
Before I move forward let me clearly point out that I had absolutely bare minimum contact with this person in the first 2 days – I saw them briefly in presence of other staff for a quick orientation while their laptop was being set up etc. My job as an MP and previously as a GP means that my schedule is very well documented. My calendar can easily prove that I was at multiple events on those first two days. And the photos from these events can easily prove that I was actually at those events.
So before we move forward, ask yourself this how can I bully someone and make them cry if they have only just started work and I am out of the office.
On day 3 when this person cried to the Team Leader and I was made aware of this I sat down with this ‘Staff Member EF’ along with their Team Leader and the staff member repeatedly said that they were missing their family and had gone back home everyday in the last few days to stay with the parents. I contacted the Relationship Manager asap requesting them to provide support to this staff as they were in a new city (Hamilton) and obviously didn’t have many social connections. I was advised by the Relationship Manager that support would be provided to this staff but it was many days before the Relationship Manager even caught up with the ‘staff member EF’.
A few days later ‘staff member EF’ offered to resign again citing similar two issues – the fact that they were missing their family and had been going back home every night to see their parents and that they didn’t think they knew how to use much of the software in the office because of which they felt they had over-committed to the job. Relationship Manager was contacted again and it was again discussed that how ‘Staff Member EF’ be provided comprehensive training to help with Labour Connect, Canva and Microsoft Outlook etc, as well as support systems are put in place so that they don’t feel isolated in the new city.
From my side, formal meetings were set in place which were minuted to discuss how ‘Staff Member EF’ could be better supported. The Team Leader was present and took the minutes. We also tried to include this person socially – multiple office lunches were set up, other staff took ‘Staff Member EF’ to coffee and even invited them to after-work events to make them feel included. ‘Staff Member EF’ continued to say that they were missing their family and they didn’t even talk to their flatmates in Hamilton as they had spent most of the time going back home to see their parents in a different city. ‘Staff member EF’ was asked about what sort of work they would enjoy and based on this they were taken to meet organisations in their field of interest and given work they would enjoy.
While we continued to provide support within the office, no objective support was provided from Relationship Manager and Parliamentary Services. I was repeatedly assured that how ‘Staff Member EF’ was just shy and after a few months would start enjoying the job.
‘Staff Member EF’ finally resigned after being at work for 15 days (when Covid leave and non-work days are accounted for). I was out of the office but there was another staff member there when ‘Staff Member EF’ came to the office on their non-work day. ‘Staff member EF’ handed the laptop to this staff member saying that they enjoyed working at the office (with everyone including myself) and appreciated the opportunity that was given to them, but were really missing their family because of which they had been traveling back and forth everyday to their home town. They said that they had decided to move back home with their parents and had had a new job lined up. When the other staff member advised them that they can’t just walk away from the job without serving a notice period, this ‘Staff Member EF’ was surprised and said that they needed to get out of it asap as they had to start the new job and they couldn’t serve the notice period. At this point ‘Staff Member EF’ turned the story around and wrote an email where for the first time they said that they were leaving because of “difference in work culture.” I am able to provide evidence that ‘Staff Member EF’ ended up starting their new job well before they would have served their notice period.
The Relationship Manager who had repeatedly advised me that everything was ok and support was being provided to ‘Staff Member EF’ told me that the best thing was to not ask for the notice period to be served and let this person go. In a further follow up, the Relationship Manager then said that they were always concerned about ‘Staff Member EF’ and how I had managed them and that they (Relationship Manager) had in fact discussed it with me on the phone a few days earlier. This was not true. They went on to give in writing that they had raised these issues with me. However, I advised them that the Team Leader was present as a witness on that call and if anything the Relationship Manager had repeatedly assured me that there was no need to stress and ‘Staff Member EF’ was just shy and was well supported by Parliamentary Services. When the Relationship Manager was advised that there was a witness to the phone call, they froze and were flustered. They threw it back on me asking why the Team Leader was on the call. I advised them that the Team Leader and I had gone to the launch of NZ’s first hydrogen truck in Cambridge and were on our way back when the call took place on the handsfree in the car. The Team Leader was also the manager of ‘Staff Member EF’and as such had the right to be on the phone call. The Team Leader provided evidence in support of me, that what the Relationship Manager had said on the phone (everything is ok) was not what the Relationship Manager had later claimed they had said on the phone (that there were concerns right from the beginning). After this the Relationship Manager disappeared for many weeks – no replies to messages or calls as they had been caught lying red-handed.
Parliamentary Services took many weeks to contact me back and said that they wanted to change my Relationship Manager – not fire them or investigate them – just move them away from looking after me. This is the same Relationship Manager that I had raised concerns on Day 0 of becoming an MP because of their conflict of interest with me as they were a member of the Labour Party and had actively tried to stop me becoming a candidate. I had raised this clearly with Parliamentary Services and they had assured me this would never affect the services they provided to my office. This Relationship Manager is the one who told Labour Whips office about me whistleblowing and raising concerns re wastage of taxpayer’s money, instead of confidentially investigating it. This Relationship Manager is the one who was supposed to assist with one staffing issue after another but failed at every point. This Relationship Manager is the one who was supposed to investigate staff re them turning up to work drunk. This Relationship Manager is the one who was caught red handed fabricating a story re ‘Staff Member EF.’ I raised multiple concerns re this Relationship Manager through every challenge I faced and it wasn’t until over 1.5years after I had raised my first concern that they were removed from looking after my office. BUT none of my complaints were looked into – not against staff, not against Relationship Manager, not against the Labour Whips who continued to bully me.
Instead I heard that other staff who had left 6-9months ago to move to better paying job were being asked to do exit interview in order to get a story against me when Parliamentary Services had been caught fabricating information.
Parliamentary Services told me in May that they had NOT investigated any claims against me but they don’t think I should be hiring or managing staff.
Ask yourself this – if I am a terrible manager and Parliamentary Services does have complaints from staff members then why would they not investigate independently to give justice to these staff members who have made allegations against me? How is it that I am the only one asking for an independent public inquiry?
Also ask yourself this, despite 1.5 years of “staffing issues” that the Labour Party machinery and PMO are trying to deflect to, how is it that when my lawyer showed up to a meeting within 30minutes the Parliamentary Services and Labour Whips had agreed to let go of all issues and “move on.” Within minutes of having a lawyer in the meeting I had received two emails confirming that the ads were ready to be put in papers and on websites for staff hiring.
Ask yourself how any of this makes sense?
I raised the staffing issues – not once but multiple times. All my claims above have a paper trail – date, time, evidence, photos. But Parliamentary Services, Labour Whips and the Prime Minister of NZ continue to decline any independent public inquiry. They talk about making Parliament a safe working place for staff. Do they not want these claims against me investigated so that the three staff above can have their say? And also other staff working for Parliamentary Services can have faith in the system? How is it that their actions and words don’t match? “Gaurav is a bully, his staff have made claims, we want Parliament to be a safe space, but under no circumstance will we have an independent public inquiry.”
And while you are asking all of this, don’t forget that I was the one who raised the concerns re bullying. The Prime Minister says the threshold for a public inquiry has not been met. What is the threshold for an independent public inquiry? 3 of my staff making allegations against me is good enough to do media stand ups every day but not enough to have a public inquiry. Multiple junior and senior MPs in the Labour Caucus saying they have been bullied (I have already provided some of the screenshots) but their wellbeing does not seem to be a priority for the Prime Minister.
If Parliamentary Services, Labour Whips, PMO and the PM are right and their conscience is clear they would have no issue having two independent public inquiries – one against me re any claims that have been allegedly made and another re bullying culture within the Labour Party (including around Kieran McAnulty who bullied me). As the senior MP said on the tape which was provided to Newshub, Prime Minister doesn’t want an investigation because she is worried about other things being dug up which will not show the Labour Party in a good light.
At the end of the day, everything I have outlined above shows that the system is set up in a way that there is no opportunity for a fair trial. I appreciate that Parliament is not the best of working environment and there are positive changes that need to be made to remedy this. But if there is no independent investigation into any claims then how do staff or MPs have faith in this system. Over the last few weeks I have heard from multiple Parliamentary staff who have laid serious concerns re Senior MPs and Ministers but at no point were these claims investigated. When it’s a junior MP these allegations are used to suppress them and silence the MP, when it’s a Senior Minister the staff are instead silenced. In all these instances Parliamentary Services repeatedly fail to uphold the principles they talk about. And the Whips offices work with them to suppress any independent and open inquiry which would help all parties put their evidence and facts on the table so that a genuine effort can be made to positively change the workplace environment. My fight here isn’t about my case alone, many other MPs have been in this situation and so have staff and all of us have found that the system refuses to listen to us and carry out an independent investigation while virtue signalling all the way about changing workplace culture. The way the Prime Minister, Labour Party and Parliamentary Services have handled things in the last 2.5 weeks alone sends a message to the general public that people in power are above accountability. These same people make workplace rules and regulations that everyone else has to follow, but they are themselves not accountable.
The Labour Party machinery has been actively deflecting from the concerns I have raised and a Senior Minister said to me in clear terms that “Labour machinery will not only destroy your political career but also your medical career. Look at any recent example of people who have gone against a Party.”
My points remain clear:
1. What is the Prime Minister hiding that she doesn’t want an investigation?
2. Why don’t they independently investigate me about staffing issues so that he can get a fair trial?
3. Why did the independent Parliamentary Services share with the Labour Party the details about my whistle-blowing about Parliamentary misuse of funds?
4. Despite screenshots which show that Labour Party caucus members have been bullied by Kieran McAnulty, why would the Prime Minister not do an investigation against this person who she’s gone on to promote?
5. When the Prime Minister said that I would get a fair trial at the caucus meeting, why did she not mention the pre-determined meeting that she had already set up?