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Bill for WINZ' follies may rise

2000 web site"The taxpayer may end up footing the bill for WINZ mismanagement of the disciplinary proceedings into the chartered plane incident," Labour employment spokesperson Steve Maharey said today.

Mr Maharey was commenting on the resignation of the manager suspended for chartering a flight to take Work and Income New Zealand managers to a conference in Wairakei.

"The woman is now taking a personal grievance case for constructive dismissal to the Employment Court. If she wins, as she has a good chance of doing, WINZ will be ordered to pay what could be a large sum in damages.

"Taxpayers have already forked out large amounts of money to finance WINZ' culture of extravagance. Any damages payment would be a further - indirect - contribution to the pile," Mr Maharey said.

"The matter should concern the State Services Commission because the woman's decision to go to the Employment Court was born of her concern that she would not get a fair hearing in the disciplinary proceedings being conducted internally by WINZ.

"Labour shares those concerns and believes the responsibility rests firmly with WINZ chief executive Christine Rankin. Not only did Mrs Rankin create the impression that she had prejudged the issue by stating repeatedly that she had been "misled" into approving the expenditure for the plane but she retained for herself the right to make the final judgement on the woman's performance.

"There were direct conflicts between Mrs Rankin's account of events and the staff member's. Once that became clear, natural justice demanded that Mrs Rankin should remove herself from the hearing and put it into the hands of an independent arbiter.

"That was Labour's advice throughout. Had it been followed, WINZ would not now be facing a court case it is at risk of losing," Mr Maharey said.

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