Workers deny claims of bullying
Allegations of bullying at Cannons Creek Fanau Centre has seen two employees file personal grievances and seek reparation totalling $50,000.
The two employees, whom Kapi-Mana News has agreed not to name, were initially suspended in early August, after accusations from three other co-workers that they were bullying and intimidating other staff. They refute these claims.
The Fanau Centre is well-known in the Porirua community. It is a not-for-profit group and one of six family service centres in New Zealand providing services for families with children from birth to 13 years old. This includes childcare, advice and advocacy and counselling for domestic violence.
Funded by the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Development, the centre received $50,000 in November from the government’s community response fund.
Kapi-Mana News has obtained letters from both the Whitireia Law Centre, whom the two employees engaged in August, and Employment Contract Services, to the Fanau Centre, outlining the grievances.
Fanau Centre manager Liz Kelly, also Porirua’s deputy mayor, had levelled the allegations of bullying against the two employees, but they claim it is the other way around.
‘‘It’s been bad since the beginning of the year and for us to be accused of what we are is ridiculous. I had an argument . . . at a staff meeting and two days later there’s this stuff about me intimidating other staff. You speak out and there are repercussions. We work in a healing place, it’s supposed to be a place of assistance and support.’’
One of the employees claims ‘‘ at least eight’’ staff from the Fanau Centre have left in the past six months.
The duo say the Fanau Centre’s trust board have been no help, even though chairman Mike Fermanis told them at one stage ‘‘I will sort it’’.
They say they were never given any written or verbal warning before their suspension in August. Now, with Employment Contract Services involved, they are seeking compensation, with a letter from the company to Mr Fermanis on September 2 stating ‘‘the whole matter has been handled in an inappropriate and unfair manner. This [suspensions] occurred in breach of good faith requirements [and] they were denied representation even when they sought it.’’
The alleged complaints against the two employees ‘‘ contains so little substance and most of it is very old’’ and it is alleged Ms Kelly ‘‘ implored staff to write letters of complaint’’. For the manner in which they were suspended the two employees are seeking $5000 each, plus $20,000 each in personal grievances against Ms Kelly.
Kapi-Mana News sought comment from Ms Kelly but were directed towards Mr Fermanis. He did not answer our questions, but provided the following statement.
‘‘The Fanau Centre cannot talk about matters relating to the employment of staff. The centre is providing excellent service to the people of this area as we have done for many years and will continue to do so.
‘‘Our focus is always on the people we serve. The board believes that our general manager Liz Kelly has done an excellent job and we expect that she will continue to do so.’’
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