Woman claims conspiracy to remove her

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 25/10/2012

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A Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry staffer who was a casualty of the organisation's staffing cuts accused her managers of colluding to get rid of her.

Jennifer McDonald worked for the ministry for more than 25 years in financial roles before being made redundant last year.

She complained to the Employment Relations Authority that her dismissal was unjustified because senior staff had taken a negative attitude towards her. She also argued that the ministry had failed to consult her properly and to consider alternative positions.

In his decision, authority member Greg Wood said Ms McDonald had made serious allegations about the motives of a large number of ministry staff. These included claims that her manager, Kathryn McBride, had been "prevailed upon" to seek the termination of her employment.

But Mr Wood said he considered that scenario unlikely, and any mistakes made during the process of her redundancy were probably made out of ignorance or coincidence.

Ms McDonald's problems began in 2009 after NZAid was merged back into the ministry as part of the Government's plan to centralise agencies' operations. Then the ministry restructured the finance team and a staff review was undertaken.

Ms McDonald alleged her review was done with unreasonable haste and that she was the only staff member not re-employed, but Mr Wood said the redundancy decision was taken for genuine reasons.

However, Mr Wood was critical of the lack of warning given to Ms McDonald when called to a meeting at which she was told of her redundancy. The ministry also failed to provide her with copies of other staff feedback on the review.

Mr Wood awarded Ms McDonald $3500 in compensation.

A ministry spokesman said processes had been reviewed after the decision.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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