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Workers Lack Information About Whistle-Blower Law


PSA MEDIA RELEASE
March 19, 2008
For Immediate Use

State Sector Workers Lack Information About ‘Whistle-Blower’ Law

“State sector employers are not providing their staff with enough information about how to use the ‘whistle-blower’ law,” says PSA National Secretary Brenda Pilott.

She was speaking to the government administration select committee today. The committee is considering ammendents to the Protected Disclosures Act 2000, known as the ‘whistle-blower’ law.

The law covers all staff working in the state sector, including local government. Its purpose is to enable them to anonymously disclose information of serious wrongdoing at their workplace.

“State sector employers have established systems enabling staff to make disclosures about serious wrongdoing in their workplace,” says Brenda Pilott.

“The problem is they haven’t told their staff about these systems and how to use them.”

This lack of information, on how to use the ‘whistle-blower’ law has left state sector staff
feeling they won’t be protected - and their anonymity won’t be preserved - if they make a disclosure.

“It’s vital that state sector employers fill this information vacuum so their staff do feel that they’re able to disclose serous wrong doing at their work,” says Brenda Pilott.

The PSA made a number of recommedations to the select committee on changes the union believes are needed to give state sector workers greater confidence in the ‘whistle-blower’ law.

These were:

- All state servants should be given a formal briefing on the purpose of the ‘whistle-blower’ law and on their employer’s policy outlining how they can use the law. State agencies should also provide more information about the importance of the law in safeguarding the integrity of the state services.

- State agencies need to recognise that the ‘whistle-blower’ legislation requires them to issue periodic reminders to staff about the law and their policy on invoking the law. This is a similiar situation to adverts run on television and radio by the Broadcasting Standards Authority reminding viewers and listeners to contact the Authority if they find programming offensive or inappropriate.

- State sector staff making a disclosure under the law should be provided with free and independent support. This would include enabling a union to support members through the process and could be part of their employers’ ‘whistle-blower’ procedures.

- The PSA believes consideration should be given to having an agency oversee any disclosures made under the law. This was also recommended by the State Services Commission review of the law conducted by Mary Scholtens QC in 2003. The Ombudsman’s office could fuffill this overseeing role.

- The Ombudsman could also be given the task of providing information about the law and given more support to do this work.

- The PSA would like the select committee to consider whether the threshold for invoking the law - disclosure of serious wrongdoing - may be too high. We recognise the law is intended for the most serious cases of wrong doing. But there may be cases where the wrong doing does not meet the threshold but should still be disclosed so remedial action can be taken. PSA members have told the union that this is an area where they feel vulnerable in making a disclosure.


ENDS

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