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The weird arrangement for MP’s staffers

Written By: - Date published: 1:25 pm, August 14th, 2022 - 76 comments
Categories: Media, Unions, workers' rights - Tags:

I write this with some experience; I was a union advocate for some Parliamentary Services staff, my partner was a delegate for Parliamentary Services and lost his job after an election, I employed staffers while an MP, and I was an Associate Whip.

While MPs choose their staffers, they are still workers with rights. It is a “triangular relationship” where they are covered by a Collective Agreement with Parliamentary Services who is the legal employer, but the MP directs their day to day work. Many PS staff are members of a union; either PSA or E Tu who are parties to the collective agreement. But they have an unusual agreement.

There is the “get out of jail” clause which means there is no requirement for an MP to re-employ people after an election, or if the MP decides there is a break down in the relationship, they usually win. If an MP is not re-elected, or leaves early for some reason, the staffer is gone too. They get three months’ pay.

But we now have a government taking staff management and bullying seriously. In June, Trevor Mallard announced a new role Independent Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards, a recommendation from the Francis report.

Any Whip worth their salt would see red flags where there is a frequent turnover in an MP’s office or complaints. And what is a brake on this are the rights workers have under the collective agreement and the law, which also need to be treated seriously.

I have often thought about these arrangements and any alternatives. Would it be better if MPs could directly employ their staff? Don’t think so. This goes to the heart of the power relationship. And in parliament, MPs have a hell of a lot more power than individual staff.

MP management and advice is important and that’s where the Whips matter. I didn’t always get it right either but at least I understood the basics of employment rights. Remember, many who come into Parliament don’t and it is a steep learning curve for them.

And on bullying. It’s an easy hit to make to get headlines. Any disagreement between anyone can be described as bullying. We do have real and actual issues with bullying in workplaces where there is a huge power imbalance. It needs serious attention but claiming bullying when you have the privilege of being an elected MP? And your staff are subordinates? Sorry I just don’t get it.

And my advice to all PS staffers. Just join the union.

76 comments on “The weird arrangement for MP’s staffers ”

  1. Visubversa 1

    Thank you Darien Well said.

  2. Chess Player 2

    As one with no experience of parliament’s workings, my impression of what a Whip does has always been that they’re responsible for making sure the rank and file do as directed, attend the house, and vote the expected way.

    Is no bullying needed to achieve those objectives?

    If not, parliament must be a unique environment, as I’ve seen bullying in every organisation I’ve had experience of, including schools, sports clubs, corporates, non profits and churches.

    • James Simpson 2.1

      It depends on what you consider bullying.

      Labour has 65 MPs. The vast majority of them won't ever be known, or have the ability to advance their own agendas. They are their to cast a vote, but have no say over which way they vote.

      That can be very frustrating, but is the nature of our parlaiment and certainly the way for the establishment parties Labour and National.

      Without doubt some of those back bench MPs are going to get frustrated with the system and the party rules which dictate how they operate.

      Is that bullying?

      • observer 2.1.1

        I'm sure that's the case. Imagine being an ambitious new MP (as you say, Lab or Nat) and your party is in power (so it's a large caucus), and your job is to ask the patsy Qs in the House ("Does the Minister agree that the policy is awesome?"). Not the most rewarding of roles, and by their nature politicians will have a high opinion of themselves, whether justified or not. (They do a lot of other work, of course, but it doesn't make headlines beyond the local paper that hardly anybody reads).

        But there's an important difference between indiscipline and independence. The latter means that you have a principled objection to a particular policy, and you want to express it – publicly, if necessary. There should be some scope for MPs to do that. It's common in other Parliaments overseas.

        The case of Dr Sharma doesn't seem to be about that. He's not saying "my party is wrong to support this war" or "wrong to rule out a CGT", whatever. It's personal, not political, in the proper sense. It doesn't seem to be about anything that relates to the voters at all.

        • Belladonna 2.1.1.1

          I don't get that vibe from Sharma at all.

          Bearing in mind, that what he says is entirely from his perspective – and other perspectives may challenge his reality.

          But, he's not complaining about not being allowed to speak his mind on public policy issues – at all. He seems to have absorbed the fact that he's a minor cog in the Labour Govt, with little chance of making his mark in Parliament, and decided to concentrate on being an excellent local MP (not a bad strategy, actually)

          He's complaining about not being appropriately staffed and resourced to do his job as an electorate MP. So it's the services to the voters of Hamilton West he's concerned with (the ones who elected him), not the population of NZ as a whole.

          In particular:

          A. Unsuitable parliamentary staff being assigned from the beginning (someone who attempted to block his selection in the electorate – so already hostile to him)

          B. Parliamentary staff assigned to him behaving in unprofessional and inappropriate ways (he's specified drunk on the job and inappropriate expenditure).

          C. Parliamentary Services refusing to engage with him over documented complaints, or investigate them – and referring all matters to the Whip's office (Whips should – I understand – have no intermediary role between the MP and PS – PS might inform them, but shouldn't be referring decisions to them.). On this one, I think Sharma is more likely to be correct.

          D. Bullying (specific allegations, mostly against McAnulty) by the Whips. The Whip is absolutely in a very significant position of power in relation to a backbencher – and needs to use it effectively for the benefit of the Party (that's why they're there), but also sensitively and appropriately. It's a difficult tightrope to walk. I would not be surprised if there is some element of truth in this allegation.

          E. Refusal to allow appropriate levels of staffing – which he perceives as punishment. This is one area where I think that a different perspective might be more correct. But by then the relationship between Sharma, PS and McAnulty had pretty much broken down.

  3. Just join the union.

    Best advice ever!

  4. Tiger Mountain 4

    Well explained Darien.

    Does a certain Hamilton MP think he is the first to have stumbled upon some of the arcane, hierarchal, historic, and odd practices of the NZ Parliament and Parliamentary Service? Wait till he experiences the tender mercies of a Hamilton LEC after this very public effort…

  5. Ad 5

    Why doesn't Labour just recommend Dr Sharma as an independent in the upcoming Tauranga by-election?

    He's clearly running for his own seat. Just needs a party.

    Ideally Dr Sharma is now for sale to Voices for Freedom or NZFirst.

    Or maybe he can learn to drive a truck and raise up the next Howl of a Protest.

    Freedom. Hope. Love. More freedom.

    • MickeyBoyle 5.1

      No, why doesn't Jacinda announce an investigation into the accusations Dr Sharma and Anna Lorcks staff member have made and then act on the outcome?.

      Trying to throw Gaurav under the bus, because this may be politically damaging to you is an absolute disgrace. But this is typical of Arderns "kindness" in action I suppose.

      • observer 5.1.1

        Because we already know the results of the investigation.

        If it doesn't have an acceptable outcome to Dr Sharma, it's a "whitewash", a "cover-up".

        Do you seriously think Sharma is going to say "well, the inquiry has some criticisms of McNulty but he stays in his job and I guess that's fair and we'll work together in caucus now"?

        If you've read what he has said (and it's been such a lot I wouldn't blame you if you haven't) then its basically "I'm outta here".

        If he fronted with specifics of e.g. this misuse of taxpayers' money he claims, then there would be something to investigate. He hasn't yet. He should.

        • MickeyBoyle 5.1.1.1

          He named Kieren McAnulty and Duncan Webb. This needs to be investigated.

          As for specifics, it's not as if Jacinda or anyone else in Labour has released any either to counter his claims.

          Let's here all sides, investigate this and then come to a conclusion. Pre-judging this is wrong.

          • Anne 5.1.1.1.1

            As for specifics, it's not as if Jacinda or anyone else in Labour has released any either to counter his claims.

            Of course they haven't. They have started an in-house inquiry. That takes time. He only went public a couple of days ago for god's sake.

          • Sanctuary 5.1.1.1.2

            He named the whips because he didn't think they were dancing sufficiently well to his tune. Mr. Sharma seems to have confused anyone who disagrees with him with bullying.

      • Visubversa 5.1.2

        Possibly because employment matters have other means of resolution and require a different level of confidentiality.

      • Anne 5.1.3

        WTF are you talking about?

        Ardern has gone out of her way to be respectful of Gaurav while they look into his allegations.

        You are as bad as the VFF crowd. Make up lies even though the evidence of the opposite is out there for everyone to see.

        • MickeyBoyle 5.1.3.1

          Utter nonsense, the Labour machine is trying to destroy the guy and dismiss his allegations because they are politically damaging.

          Much like they did with Louisa Wall.

          If this was National many here would be apoplectic, but because it's one of us, we must not look too hard.

          [deleted]

          [Darien Fenton is an Author at TS, and as such you cannot attack her or undermine her in comments. She’s not speaking for Labour so stop trying to make out she is. – weka]

          • observer 5.1.3.1.1

            Fenton sent Sharma a private message. She made no public comment. He then made it public, and attacked her.

            Who acted more reasonably?

            • MickeyBoyle 5.1.3.1.1.1

              The private message shouldn't have been made public, but I understand why Dr Sharma did do that.

              It effectively corroborated what he was saying about being supported.

              But Darien is not a member of parliament anymore and is entitledto her views, so I'll leave it alone.

              • Louis

                MickeyBoyle, how did suggesting he seek the assistance of the union corroborate what he was saying and justify publishing her private message and abusing her over it?

          • weka 5.1.3.1.2

            mod note.

          • Anne 5.1.3.1.3

            All the signs thus far are… he's self centred and is having a hissy fit because he hasn't got his own way about something. Being part of a parliamentary team means going along with the consensus viewpoint at all times. No MP agrees with everything their caucus says or does. He strikes me as a bit of a 'strutter' – my term for people who have an over inflated opinion of themselves.

            And what was disgraceful about Darien Fenton's email? She is correct. As a former public servant, that is where we went for assistance if we had problems. It is what he should have done instead of taking advantage of the publicity around bullying behaviour and going to the media. He will probably live to regret that mistake.

            • MickeyBoyle 5.1.3.1.3.1

              From his Facebook post it appears he's been trying to get this sorted for a long while now without much success. He feels he is being treated unfairly.

              Whatever your views are about Dr Sharma, his allegations deserve to be taken seriously. Not mocked or dismissed.

              • Anne

                Any person outside of the parliamentary party is entitled to express an opinion based on the evidence to hand. I did not mock or dismiss him as you claim. I gave an honest opinion of his actions and demeanour thus far. If he is able to produce evidence of unfair treatment I will acknowledge as much. But in the meantime I stand by my view based on what we know and the way he has gone about airing his grievances.

            • Belladonna 5.1.3.1.3.2

              I haven't read Fenton's email – just the reported excepts here:

              https://www.odt.co.nz/star-news/star-national/bullying-claims-mp-cops-flak-mouthing-media

              But, if she is correctly quoted, then she is absolutely wrong.

              The union (either PSA or E Tu) represents parliamentary staffers – not MPs. And the employment relationship is between the staffer and Parliamentary Services. There is no way that Sharma reaching out to the Union representing parliamentary staff would be appropriate – and, they would have, quite correctly, rebuffed him.

              The people who should have been working with him are the Whips – and according to Sharma, they were the source of the bullying.

              • Louis

                As Anne pointed out at 5.1.3.1.3

                "As a former public servant, that is where we went for assistance if we had problems"

                • Belladonna

                  An MP is not a public servant, and is not covered by the PSA.

                  The ’employer’ of an MP are the people who elected them (in this case the voters in Hamilton West)

                  Staff working in their offices, employed by Parliamentary Services, are public servants, and are employed by the PSA.

                  • Belladonna

                    Sorry for the typo, for 'employed by the PSA' I meant 'are able to be covered or represented by the PSA'

                  • Louis

                    A number of mps are union members.

              • weka

                Are MPs not able to join the PSA?

          • MickeyBoyle 5.1.3.1.4

            Fair enough Weka, I'll cop that.

            I wasn't suggesting she was speaking for Labour btw.

            But all good.

          • Belladonna 5.1.3.1.5

            I agree about the parallel with Wall. Not because of the substance of their complaints (I tend to believe Wall, and am on the fence about Sharma – not enough actual facts yet).

            But the Labour machine has rolled into action to smother the flames, diminish the reputation of the complainant, and make the issue go away.

            That's not to say that National don't do it too. I think that it's endemic in parliament. But pretending that there is no issue isn't a very effective way of addressing it. From a neutral perspective, it looks like attacking the whistleblower.

            It appears that Ardern was blindsided by this. In which case she should be having very stern words indeed with McAnulty. It's his job to resolve these issues pre-explosion, or – worst case – ensure his boss is thoroughly briefed when the shit hits the fan. In this case, it seems as though he badly mis-judged the situation.

            https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/parliament-bullying-jacinda-ardern-says-gaurav-sharmas-claims-disputed-confirms-ongoing-staff-issues-in-her-mps-office/DFLAUODS6STW3R5DFHI74SXMSY/

            • Louis 5.1.3.1.5.1

              Ardern wasnt blindsided. From your link "Ardern confirmed she was aware at the end of last year that there were some "issues"

              "Labour Chief Whip Duncan Webb said his office became aware of issues between Sharma and some of his staff a year ago.

              The Parliamentary Service recently paused hiring staff for Sharma’s office, with the intention of providing further assistance before more staff were hired, Webb said, adding that “this seemed prudent”.

              “At all times the whip’s office has acted in good faith and sought to work constructively with Gaurav and the Parliamentary Service to ensure he has good support available to address issues between him and his staff.”

              https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/129554967/jacinda-ardern-disputes-mps-bullying-claims-labour-says-it-acted-in-good-faith-towards-dr-gaurav-sharma

              From your link: "noted the responsibility to protect staff and to make sure MPs were the best employers they could be"

              https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/parliament-bullying-claims-labour-mp-gaurav-sharmas-ex-staffer-speaks-out-after-being-left-in-tears/6Y6DUYVDRNWS6DPEVT7B4JT24Q/

              • Belladonna

                So, if not blindsided, her political management of her MPs is at fault. Whether that is via the Whips office (where McAnulty and Sharma have clearly had a badly deteriorating relationship over at least the last year); or via her own office (where Sharma reached out for assistance, and did not receive it).

                Yes, the PM shouldn't have to be on top of every relationship with a backbencher – that's what the Whips are for. But, and it's a very big but, she does need to ensure that her Whips are acting well and appropriately and that there are alternative communication pathways if there is an issue. There is a very big and real imbalance of power between a back-bencher (especially one new to Parliament) and the party whips.

                Her claim is that the Whips have been acting in good faith. It's only a claim, not fact, until proven.

                I don't know that Sharma's complaints are valid (as I've said, earlier, I'm on the fence until we have more information). But I don't know that they are fabricated, either.

                Ardern does not address Sharma's complaints about being bullied by the Whips (McAnulty in particular). She's skated right past this, and is addressing issues of Sharma's staff management in his office.
                While both are potential bullying issues, they are *not* the same issue.

                It is entirely possible that Sharma has both been bullying staff in his office, and being bullied by McAnulty. We literally don't know, at this stage.

                • Louis

                  "So, if not blindsided, her political management of her MPs is at fault"

                  No. The PM disputed that in her media rounds today.

                  https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2022/08/pm-jacinda-ardern-not-standing-down-mps-accused-of-bullying-says-she-s-seen-nothing-to-substantiate-claims.html

                  • Belladonna

                    Given that she's already stated that she has not met with Sharma – either before this all blew up in the media, or subsequently (unless she's done so today) – how could she have 'seen anything to substantiate the claims' ?

                    From your link

                    Ardern said she has gone through "the documentation that exists around these issues".

                    But, part of Sharma's complaint is that he was told that there would never be a document trail, communication would only be verbal. So documentary evidence would not show anything amiss.

                    Clearly, there has been something very amiss in the relationship between McAnulty and Sharma – you don't get to this kind of public volcanic eruption, with no back-story.

                    The Prime Minister then went on to criticise Sharma for not raising the issues directly with her before conceding he spoke with one of her staff members in December.

                    She said a resolution was reached last year and she didn't hear anything else until the NZ Herald article was published last week

                    So, she criticised Sharma for not reaching out – then admitted he had done so. Followed by an admission that she was blindsided by the extent of the problem (she thought everything had been resolved last year)

                    Setting aside, completely, all of the competing bullying allegations – this is not a good representation of a healthy relationship between MPs within the Labour caucus.

                    In this case, at least, problems weren't resolved (whatever those problems might have been), and a cone of silence was slapped down, resulting in a pressure-cooker explosion.

                    McAnulty has not come out of this well – his base job is to resolve this kind of issue before it reaches the media (and preferably before explosion point). His secondary job is to ensure that the PM is well-informed of any potential issues – not a resounding success, there, either.

                    • Louis

                      Obviously Dr Sharma, who has not put up any proof, was not being truthful.

                      PM: "As I’ve said, from what I’ve seen of the engagements, I have seen interventions that were used because concerns were raised by staff members around Gaurav’s management of his team. It’s clear that there wasn’t always agreement that that was necessary by Gaurav, but that doesn’t necessarily constitute what he has characterised as bullying. I’ve looked at those processes, I’ve looked at those interventions—whilst I don’t believe that they have substantiated his claims of bullying"

                      Like when Dr Sharma said his claims weren't investigated, when they were.

                      "Gonzalez-Montero told the NZ Herald that was raised last year and he had looked into it and considered the spending was for parliamentary business and within the rules.

                      “It related to a Wellington-based staff member travelling to a member’s electorate office for the purpose of team building and assisting the wider team. This is normal practice for many members when establishing a new team which has staff dispersed in different regions.”

                      About Gaurav Sharma

                      No the PM didn't not criticize Dr Sharma, she just pointed out that there are avenues he could've taken but didn't.

                      PM "So what’s black and white in our rules is the expectation that when there are issues that they’re raised with whips, the leader, or people nominated by the leader, and that then if those issues remain unresolved, of course caucus can be the ultimate place to raise concerns. So that’s very clear. As I’ve already set out, those avenues have not always been used in this case"

                      I don't agree with the your opinion. It is quite revealing how you would take what Dr Sharma said at face value, but easily discount his staff's complaints of his controlling and bullying behaviour that started this and his refusal to follow advice on how to manage his staff appropriately.

                      "we have an obligation to look after the staff they employ as well. And so that has been the concern that’s generated this issue in the first place"

                      imo, it's Dr Sharma that is not coming out of this well.

                      https://www.beehive.govt.nz/sites/default/files/2022-08/Post-Cabinet%20Press%20Conference%2015%20August%202022.pdf

      • Patricia Bremner 5.1.4

        Mickey, he has to work with the system, otherwise he is going rogue. He signed up to the Party, and the system. The PM has to await the employment outcome.

    • Sanctuary 5.2

      Sharma is increasingly looking more than a little https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/labour-mp-gaurav-sharma-letter-reveals-internal-party-support-amid-ex-staff-concerns/W2Z57PC34JK4BL76OGI2WXY6W4/

      [stop making things up about people’s mental health. If you have evidence, make the case and provide it. Otherwise, find a different way to make your point – weka]

      • Watch his maiden speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNqw6nm3KK8

        He was bullied at school, he was bullied in the hospital he worked in, now he's being bullied in parliament.

        He appears to have some sort of persecution complex.

        • weka 5.2.1.1

          please explain your thinking. My patience is running thin for the sound bite smears.

          If he has a history of being bullied, and he is being bullied in his current job, you just blamed a victim for having a history of being victimised.

          • I think you can 'perceive' you're being bullied when it is simply not the case. I know I've met people like that, who are forever 'perceiving' that someone/some organisation has it in for them.

            If your feelings/perceptions are looking for persecution, you'll find it quickly enough.

            • He seems to be sensitive to bullying and mentioned it twice in his maiden speech.

              From Micky's post.

              • weka

                right, so there could be a number of ways to interpret that.

                I tend to agree with the commentary that we now call a lot of things bullying that aren't. But I can't see how we can tell at this distance what is going on in someone's head. Speculating about the range of reasons seems reasonable.

                I agree with you that some people feel/perceive bullying when it's not happening. I still don't know how it's possible to know for any of these cases what is going on.

        • observer 5.2.1.2

          I don't think that comment is helpful. X can be true while Y is not true.

          I watched a number of maiden speeches when they were given, including his, and was impressed. No alarm bells were sounded at the time, so they shouldn't be sounded retrospectively.

      • weka 5.2.2

        mod note.

    • He's a doctor and we are desperately short of doctors.

      Perhaps he should go back to that.

  6. I suspect that Dr Sharma has been a little insulated from the hurly burly of staff recruitment and management as he may have been in a GP practice that had a practice manager to look after all of this stuff.

    Having worked in parliament for four years there are good managers and those who are not. And that is fine, we cannot all be good at everything. Another good trait is knowing when you don't know and gathering those around you who do, to cover your gaps. However being happy doing this means you need to be able to admit to yourself that you don't know everything. Some professionally trained people find this difficult

    While he says that a staff member who was on an electorate committee looking at candidates was appointed to his staff, this seems really odd unless he is speaking about his electorate staff? Are his complaints about the people appointed to help in his Wellington Office?

    It does seem as though he may be a difficult person to work for, and having worked for one difficult person (not in Parliament but in a volunteer capacity!) who was in the league of really getting upset over trivial matters and not consistently it does have a walking on egg shells feeling. You feel as if you are never doing the correct thing.

    • joe90 6.1

      I suspect that Dr Sharma has been a little insulated

      Dude's a GP with experience in public health, policy and consulting in New Zealand, Spain, USA, Nepal, Vietnam and Switzerland and a Fulbright Scholar with an MBA.

      But he couldn't manage three staff?

      • Shanreagh 6.1.1

        None of those qualifications mean that he is good at staff management……completely different skill sets.

        • joe90 6.1.1.1

          Apparently his interpersonal skill set works just fine when he's a GP, policy advisor, consultant, postgraduate student, or an electorate MP.

          But when he's dealing with parliamentary staff those vital interpersonal skills desert him?

          Nope. Not buying it.

          • Sanctuary 6.1.1.1.1

            Being an MP is quite different from any other job. MPs are elected officials, they derive their mandate from the electors. They can't be sacked or censured. That means staffing issues have to be dealt with completely differently.

          • Shanreagh 6.1.1.1.2

            Where in those jobs would it be condoned for a 'GP, policy advisor, consultant, postgraduate student, or an electorate MP' to go off because another put fridge magnets in the wrong box? This is apparently the level of interpersonal relations that took place in his office.

            As I said staff management is totally different from peer to peer relations and consultant/gate keeping relations.

            I have come across superbly educated and genuine people who do not have the empathy or smarts to manage people.

            • weka 6.1.1.1.2.1

              the fridge magnet thing was interesting. If someone is in a high stress job with constraints on time, having good systems might be crucial to being able to function. The person may also be neurodivergent and need a certain kind of order.

              We don't have the full context for that fridge magnet bit. We've got a snip via MSM of someone in the office who feels (and may well have been) bullied by their superior. The issue isn’t the need to have fridge magnets in the right place, it’s how the relating is done in communicating about that. Which we don’t know.

              • Shanreagh

                The issue isn’t the need to have fridge magnets in the right place, it’s how the relating is done in communicating about that. Which we don’t know.

                I disagree with this. The issue in an office where bullying happens is not just communicating it is the reach and breadth of the issues that the bully takes an interest in. The tale of bullying with the tale of putting fridge magnets in 'proper' places had the immediate ring of truth to me once I had read that. A boss earning $XXXXXX has no need whatsoever to interest themselves in where staff put magnets when not in use or how they organise them if they are not the person using them. As long as whoever does the job of putting a diary or messages on the fridge does this then the magnets could be arranged how best it suits the worker. I have seen bosses reorganise a left handed workers set up as it looks 'out of synch' or 'untidy'.

                From my experience, after being horrendously bullied, in the proper definition, the bully found ways to intervene/interest themselves in aspects of my work I had been doing for 6 or so years and for which I had received plaudits for by two previous managers, of reaching around the line staff above me.

                In fact the story of the wrong places for fridge magnets had such a ring of truth that I immediately felt that old 'walking on eggshells' squirmy stomach feeling I had experienced with the bully who bullied me.

                • Anne

                  Exhibit 2

                  I worked in an office which was managed by an American bully. It was shift work and each night I would open the fridge for a cuppa and find a bottle of wine placed up front. I would push it back to get to the milk. It happened 3 nights in a row – strange. A week later a colleague confronted me and accused me of stealing the bottle of wine. It transpired the bully had told him I had taken it. A colleague later told me it was the bully who took it.

                  That is how bullies behave – drive wedges between people and make false accusations.

                • Anne

                  …after being horrendously bullied, in the proper definition, the bully found ways to intervene/interest themselves in aspects of my work I had been doing for 6 or so years and for which I had received plaudits for by two previous managers…

                  Yes. Happened to me too. My bully did get his come-uppance in the end but I had to go to inordinate lengths…

    • Belladonna 6.2

      While he says that a staff member who was on an electorate committee looking at candidates was appointed to his staff, this seems really odd unless he is speaking about his electorate staff? Are his complaints about the people appointed to help in his Wellington Office?

      I agree that I'd like a little more detail about this one. His comment did seem to be in relation to his Wellington office (though it's difficult to be certain).

      It doesn't seem possible for it to be an electorate employment position – since these are absolutely controlled by the Party, rather than Parliamentary Services (it's not uncommon for a local party employee to outlast several MPs).

      And certainly the Todd Barclay issue was all about the National Party as the employer in the local electorate office, rather than Parliamentary Services.

      The Labour Party do scrutinize all potential MPs (as they should, cf Uffindell for National). And also send representatives with voting rights to the electorate selection. I guess it's possible that one of those was also a parliamentary staffer – though it seems an enormous stretch of coincidence that that person would then be 'accidentally' assigned to Sharma.

  7. As far as I am aware an electorate MP is entitled to funding for an electorate secretary and a Wellington office based secretary. Some electorates, depending on size may have more than one electorate secretary. While the electorate secretaries may be appointed by the MP, actually I am not sure that this is the case, their terms and conditions are always looked over by Parliamentary services as PS wants to satisfy itself that proper employment or contractual relationships are being observed.

    It is not unknown for an MP who becomes a Minister to bring his Wellington based secretary to his new Ministerial office (the two Ministers I worked for did), and I knew one who who took his Secretary back to his backbench office when the party lost so she had been with him all the way through his MP/Ministerial/MP career.

  8. Ed1 8

    I can understand the need for 'break down in relationship' provisions – some staff will want to stay with a particular party when a government changes, others will be happy to work for another party, but that should be a two way process. New MPs presumably get staff allocated to them; those with longer experience may develop a team that works for them for quite a period. Such a provision should however work both ways, and involve both the political party and Parliamentary Services, who together should be able to identify problems before they become critical, and as necessary move staff around to best suit all parties. If an MP consistently has problems, it may be that he should be assigned a staff member who is better able to understand the problems that have occurred and what is needed to assist the MP to avoid problems – if frequent changes of staff become difficult to manage, a 'difficult' MP may find that he is without a full complement of assistance for a time.

    In effect any relationship should not be one-sided – that is not bullying of an MP by his party or Parliamentary Services (or bullying in the other direction), but the reality of everyone seeking a match between resources available and particular needs of the organisation and personalities of individuals.

    In a complex system, there are multiple responsibilities – blaming only one part of that system may not always be correct.

  9. Incognito 9

    [Response from Darien Fenton @ 2022/08/15 at 4:57 am]

    Thanks for comments :

    Never in my experience have staff been "assigned" by others to an MP's office. The MP is the controlling employer. Parliamentary Services oversee the recruitment process because they are the legal employer. That is all.

    Suggesting he should have talked to the union is something I would advise all Labour MPs to do (many are in fact members of a union). He may have gotten good advice. It is after all, the Labour Party and supposedly part of a wider movement.

    A private message is a private message : I didn't talk to the media, despite being hounded all day Friday because of the screenshooting of the message done by the MP. The response is interesting too and I would say unbecoming of an MP. But hey what would I know?

    • Ed1 9.1

      Thank you for that. I had assumed a legal employer still would have some responsibilities, and that a "break down in the relationship'' should be able to be seen in both directions. A Good Secretary (whether in Wellington or in the electorate) should be able to assist an MP, and while a new MP may need help to get a good match for requirements, there may also be a need for both to know what actions should be taken before a relationship sours badly in either direction. I agree that a union can help – as a Manager in a private company I had a staff member bring the union in, who fully supported the position I had taken as the employer!

    • Louis 9.2

      yes Incognito

  10. Incognito 10

    Hi Darien, your comments did not appear and I have only just figured out why not and have rectified it. Sincere apologies and thanks for your excellent contributions.

    • Darien Fenton 10.1

      Thank you. The RW Twitter responses have been awful, personal and vicious. I blocked more than 100 Twitter accounts. I appreciate a place to have a conversation without the vitriol and the digging in the dirt.

      • Incognito 10.1.1

        TS is not immune from those negatives, and perhaps it shouldn’t or can’t be either because it tends to be (loosely?) associated with robust debate. However, we all try to engage in mature convos, I’d like to think, and the Mods here try to help when needed. You know that as an Author of TS you can moderate your own Posts, don’t you?

  11. observer 11

    From my comment yesterday:

    We already know the results of the investigation. If it doesn't have an acceptable outcome to Dr Sharma, it's a "whitewash", a "cover-up".

    And no surprise, that's exactly what happened. Parliamentary Services (who are not the Labour party) did investigate Sharma's claim on misuse of funds, and found no misuse of funds at all.

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/political/472853/bullying-allegations-labour-mp-gaurav-sharma-claims-misspending-hushed

    If he has something else he should say so.

  12. solkta 12

    It is Parliamentary Service, not plural.

  13. barry 13

    To add to the confusion, MPS come from a variety of backgrounds with the only defining characteristic being a huge Ego.

    Some have experience of dealing with staff and some don't. Some are empathetic employers and some aren't. Some are just plain arseholes.

    The staffers have my respect for putting up with a lot that normal people don't have to.

  14. dottie 14

    My advise to Gaurav Sharma,

    If you cannot respect your appointed staff do the work yourself

    If you do not respect your parliamentary party then resign as an MP

  15. Policy Parrot 15

    It should have never come to this, this is what appalls me most about this outcome.

    While not necessarily verbatim, the sentiment allegedly issued by Duncan Webb is important. Labour being in government is the most important thing. Every other issue, whether it be speed of reform, personality conflicts, staffing arrangements should be able to be worked through, one way or another.

    This scandal has the potential to derail that. Politics is a team sport, and the Labour Party is a movement. Labour MPs are supposed to be the agents of delivery for the team, not members of an elite club who happen to be elected on a Labour ticket. When they (MPs) believe that, they are only one step away from the likes of Peter Dunne.

    • Louis 15.1

      allegedly being the operative word. There is more than one side of this story. The staff need to considered too.

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