HealthCare NZ makes concessions, but remains committed to harmful job cuts

After weeks of protest nationwide by Public Service Association members, clients and families, the company has reduced the number of regional jobs it will cut but confirmed it will go ahead with most.

The privately owned, publicly funded company is a subsidiary of NZ Health Group, and despite pickets in eleven cities and a tsunami of negative feedback it has decided to move forward with plans to slash staff numbers in most local offices.

HealthCare NZ blames the decision to fire at least 100 employees around the country on “funding circumstances”, but there are concerns the decision is also motivated by parent company NZ Health Group’s desire to import flawed operating models from other parts of the organisation such as Geneva HealthCare.

“We are so proud that PSA members and members of local communities took action in such numbers and with such enthusiasm throughout February. Without the energy they put into their pickets and into bombarding the company with feedback, we cannot be confident even a single job would have been saved,” says PSA National Secretary Kerry Davies.

“Unfortunately the company is charging ahead with the restructure, and many people will lose their jobs. We are as committed as ever to challenging this agenda, and we will also be focusing heavily on supporting every person who faces redundancy.”

Compared to the original proposal, about thirty additional full-time equivalent positions have been retained. A second call centre will open in Dunedin, alongside the one in Auckland.

The company continues to be vague with workers about its timeline. The new operating model is scheduled to go live on 29 June, but documents sent to staff say “these dates are subject to change”.

This has led to widespread concerns among staff about how they can apply for new jobs without certainty regarding when they will be available to start.

Staff fear they will not qualify for a full redundancy payment if they do not work until the final date, but some have already applied for new jobs based on an understanding the change process would be finished in May.

HealthCare NZ has announced it will contract recruitment agency Randstad to handle applications for new positions, and psychometric testing has been proposed for use in these interview processes.

“We have serious concerns if the company goes ahead and uses psychometric testing. The use of psychometric testing for recruitment and change processes risks breaching the Treaty of Waitangi, the Privacy Act, discriminating against ethnic and religious minorities, and disadvantaging women and people with disabilities,” says Ms Davies.

“If you apply for a job you should be assessed according to your skills, experience and knowledge. Tests that attempt to identify personality traits are inevitably rife with dangerous historical and cultural assumptions.”

The PSA argues every worker currently employed by HealthCare NZ should be redeployed to available positions within NZ Health Group companies, if that is what they want.

Those who move on and seek employment elsewhere must be paid redundancy as soon as possible.

“Some workers are now in a position where their job has been disestablished, but a new role has been created in the same area with a very similar set of responsibilities and required skills,” says Ms Davies.

“We do not accept these workers should have to reapply for a rebranded version of their current job, only to risk not getting it because they fail an absurd personality quiz. We know this has happened in other workplaces that use recruitment agencies and psychometric testing, and HealthCare NZ staff deserve better.”

/Public Release. View in full here.