HealthCare New Zealand staff and supporters protesting a proposed restructure and job cuts on Chapel St on Wednesday. PHOTO/KAREN COLTMAN

KAREN COLTMAN
karen.coltman@age.co.nz

A loud protest was held in Masterton on Wednesday involving 25 HealthCare New Zealand employees against the company’s intention to disestablish four Wairarapa jobs.

The 2pm protest on Chapel St, Masterton, was timed for the arrival of company chief executive Vanessa Dudley, who held a meeting with the Public Services Association union and home support
co-ordinators on Wednesday.

There are three Wairarapa home support co-ordinators and an administrator with them.

The PSA said the company intended to disestablish these jobs and run a call centre from Albany, Auckland, to do most of this work.

At this stage, one co-ordinator would remain in Wairarapa.

PSA national healthcare co-ordinator Michael Woodcock attended the meeting and advised union members to start looking for a new job.

The staff affected found out their jobs were at risk during an unexpected conference call at the end of January. If the proposal goes ahead, staff would leave by May.

“Redundancy can happen in a few weeks and jobs are hard to get around here,” Woodcock said.

“It is clear the company intends to centralise co-ordinators.

“At least three people will be out of a job.

“The employer wants staff to stay on as there is a risk staff will leave before they have sorted out their systems

“The company isn’t organised enough to run the co-ordination service out of Albany.

“And face-to-face is what the elderly and disabled clients like and it is vital for support staff too.

“It’s not just about the co-ordinators, it is how all the other staff work in with them, how the whole service works for the 100 Wairarapa staff and the clients.

“These few jobs matter a lot more than it may appear.”

At the protest, home support worker Shona Neligan, speaking as a PSA member, said the Wairarapa area was so big they needed more than one co-ordinator.

“You have to have more than one co-ordinator. It just won’t work. We would be lost without what we have now.”

HealthCare NZ has 600 Wairarapa clients and employs 100 local staff.

After holding ‘listen and learn’ sessions last November, chief executive Vanessa Dudley announced the management restructure.

New positions and a new office of the executive was proposed.

“We now have a structure that is overly complex and lacking in flexibility with multiple duplication across the business, Dudley said.

“We appreciate that this is a period of uncertainty for our staff as we go through the consultation and decision-making process and wait to know the final structure of the organisation.”

HealthCare NZ provides home care and support to vulnerable people for multiple district health boards.

In Wairarapa, the work is contracted to the company by Focus.

PSA said the government was underfunding homecare support and this was one reason jobs were being cut and the home support service was inadequate.