Ex-staff allege bullying culture at St John video

Mike Scott/Stuff

Former St John staffers Justina McIntosh and James Hilford describe their workplace.

Up to 100 complaints of bullying have been laid against St John Ambulance and 20 confidential settlements reached between the organisation and former staff members, an anti-bullying watchdog claims.

CultureSafe New Zealand directorAllan Halse says St John, despite having "good, loyal people", lacks "good policies and processes" and as a result bullying was happening.

"If St John don't address these accusations properly then this could cause real damage to their public profile and already people are making comments to me that they'll think twice about making donations to St John in the future," he said.

Former St John staffers Justina McIntosh and James Hilford, right, have shared their allegations of workplace bullying ...
Mike Scott

Former St John staffers Justina McIntosh and James Hilford, right, have shared their allegations of workplace bullying at St John with Allan Halse, director of CultureSafe NZ.

Former St John staff and family members have also taken to sharing their stories of bullying and harassment on Halse's CultureSafe Facebook page.

Two St John staffers said this week they were persecuted by senior managers after raising complaints of bullying, costing them their health and - ultimately - their jobs.

Justina McIntosh and James Hilford said workplace bullying was widespread  in St John anddecided to speak out in the hope of creating change within the charitable organisation.

 "It's not okay what they do to people," McIntosh, a former emergency call taker, said.

McIntosh, 25, was based at the Mount Wellington communications centre, in Auckland, and said two managers began to bully her soon after she raised concerns about her pay last year.

She alleged her work performance was constantly criticised in front of others, her judgment questioned, and she was made to feel her job was at risk.

"My bullying complaint was met with performance issue deflections. It's all about deflections, if someone makes a complaint of bullying, management responds by trying to find something they've done wrong."

Ad Feedback

Hilford, 36, worked as a relief ambulance officer across Auckland and said senior staff began to bully him during his two-week induction course in 2007 when he was accused of having an "attitude problem".

He previously worked as a St John volunteer for three years. 

Incidents of bullying continued through to last year when administration stopped sending him the staff roster then struck his name off.

He said uncertainties over his work roster put him "out of kilter" and led him to make mistakes, which were jumped on by management.

Hilford made formal complaints of bullying but said they were not independently investigated despite a recommendation from WorkSafe New Zealand that his claims be examined by an impartial third party.

McIntosh said her allegations were not looked into by St John, with management saying they had not received any information which justified her claim she had been bullied.

A letter to her from Neil Lilley, Auckland clinical control centre operations manager, suggested she had misinterpreted firm management for bullying.

McIntosh had laid a personal grievance against St John while Hilford had lodged two personal grievances.

Both planned to lodge further personal grievances with St John alleging unjustified dismissal.

McIntosh was formally dismissed by St John earlier this month.

St John HR director Tom Dodd, said it was "neither fair nor constructive" to discuss individual employment matters in public forums but maintained the organisation took allegations of bullying and harassment seriously.

McIntosh and Hilford's claims of workplace bullying were subject to a thorough investigative process and the claims not upheld, he said.

"We are satisfied that these ex-employees were dealt with in a fair and reasonable manner and we stand by our process," he said.

St John has more than 18,000 paid and volunteer personnel and received an average of 15 bullying or harassment allegations a year since January 2013.

"We have previously had our harassment and bullying policies and procedures reviewed by an independent expert and the conclusion was that they are entirely appropriate," Dodd said.

St John also runs workshops on anti-bullying, some of which were led by an independent industry leader, Dodd said. 

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback