Pansy Wong’s supposed outrage over ACC “shelling out $750,000 for staff to indulge in day spas, manicures, and botox” has nothing to do with the organisation’s health and wellness programmes and everything to do with National’s attempts to prepare the scheme for privatisation.
First off, her attack is utterly dishonest. ACC, like many large employers in both the public and private sector, provides a small annual health and wellness benefit of $250 per staff member. Again, like many large employers, ACC does this through Southern Cross Healthcare’s activa card, which staff use to “buy sports equipment, pay for gym memberships and so on.” Wong has provided no evidence to the contrary.
The card also makes great economic sense. At a cost of just 0.005% of ACC’s total salary bill the activa contribution has led to improved productivity, less sick leave and improved staff retention, leading to a more stable and effective workforce. Pansy Wong and the Nats know all this, but they choose to attack ACC anyway.
Their motivation is simple: National knows Kiwis won’t support privatisation if it means higher premiums and reduced cover, but if all they hear on ACC is National’s cynical PR about taxpayer funds being wasted on ‘botox’ and ‘pet grooming’ then these negative perceptions will become the reality and the public will lose faith in the system, even come to resent it.
Pansy Wong’s ‘expose’ was never about fixing a problem. It was only ever intended to undermine public confidence in ACC in order to soften the ground for privatisation.