The Dim-Post

March 3, 2015

Hammond vs Credit Union Baywide

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 10:53 am

I was wondering why there’s been so much media about the $168,000 rude cake on Facebook HRT finding, and then I read the Tribunal decision which you can find here. It is very long, and amazing in a way that can’t really be summed up in a newspaper article. It depicts a culture of senior managers in an organisation who behave like toxic sociopaths and pour huge amounts of energy into settling petty vindictive scores – at the cost of running their business properly – but communicate all their awful, moronic, mostly illegal actions via a stream of bland corporate drivel and HR jargon about process and culture and branding and leadership. A particular low point is when they contact their victim’s new employer, who is desperately ill from chemotherapy treatment and urge him to sack her under the ninety day fire-at-will provision, threatening to withdraw their custom from his business and bankrupt it if he refuses to do so (signed off with a cheery ‘Kind Regards’).

I suspect this depiction of a malevolent management culture resonates with a lot of journalists working in New Zealand newsrooms. But there’s also a political dimension. All of National’s pro-employer labour market reforms are justified on the basis that employers won’t abuse them because there’s no financial incentive for them to do so. Yet here we have a detailed account of a financial institution that seems way more interested in bullying their staff and destroying people’s lives than making money or ‘maximizing shareholder value’ and they use National’s reforms to do it.

57 Comments »

  1. We’ve been here before in Hawkes Bay. This finding, To paraphrase an earlier comment by David Cunliffe about the sort of semi-feudal managerial class you find in unscrutinised backwaters of NZ like Hawkes Bay, lifts “…the lid on a nasty little nest of self-perpetuating provincial elites who have been propping each other up.. …either through ignorance or malpractice… …without proper governance protection – and doing it time and time again…”

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 3, 2015 @ 11:20 am

  2. DPF’s presumably well-polled line is that various worker protection laws are unnecessary because most bosses are good people. By the same logic we don’t need murder laws because most people aren’t going to kill anyone.

    Comment by pete — March 3, 2015 @ 11:33 am

  3. Doesn’t the whole infallibility of the market fall down because we’re not rational agents?

    Comment by The Ruminator — March 3, 2015 @ 11:49 am

  4. Yup, its Hawkes Bay mafia at play. But also at play in many small and large cities here in NZ

    Comment by max — March 3, 2015 @ 12:01 pm

  5. I think we can agree that the real crime here is that the screenshot of the facebook page was pasted into a Word document for distribution via email.

    Comment by jmarshall — March 3, 2015 @ 12:02 pm

  6. Just reinforces the myth from the Right that workers won’t be exploited, intimidated undervalued and under paid as New Zealanders are supposedly essentially good people.
    Most HR Consultants and senior manager have nothing but contempt for their employees and see them as unreliably liabilities that don’t deserve a fare day’s wages.
    We as a nation have for thirty years ignored the plight of employees as we have this misconstrued idea we are all good people and all New Zealanders will treat their fellow Kiwis with respect dignity and pay them fairly. This is a myth that needs to be addressed.
    Human Resource consultants seem to absolutely loath employees and look for every opportunity to make working as an unpleasant experience as possible whilst holding over employees the probability of summary dismissal with any sign of dissent

    Comment by Mooloo magic — March 3, 2015 @ 12:07 pm

  7. It depicts a culture of senior managers in an organisation who behave like toxic sociopaths and pour huge amounts of energy into settling petty vindictive scores – at the cost of running their business properly…

    This is the part I found most surprising. One would hope that those responsible are on the way out.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 3, 2015 @ 12:22 pm

  8. Having now read the document, it really is quite staggering. That Porter and Earle are still in their positions at NZCU Baywide should be astonishing.

    Comment by jmarshall — March 3, 2015 @ 12:28 pm

  9. I could tell stories about a Govt SOE that behaves in a very similar way.

    Comment by northshoreguynz — March 3, 2015 @ 12:34 pm

  10. I would be interested in followup coverage.

    I note in the judgement the comment that “the Board just do as they are told”.

    Credit Union boards are elected by members. Of course, like many organisations of this sort, members don’t usually take a strong interest, but this is the kind of thing that might spur some.

    Some damning dry sentences in there:

    “The apology offered to Ms Hammond in the course of Mr Earle’s reading of his statement of evidence was delivered without any detectable note of sincerity.”

    Comment by Stephen J — March 3, 2015 @ 12:38 pm

  11. Baywide Credit Union is clearly NOT an example of anything like a typical employer.

    So I’d suggest that the statement “National’s pro-employer labour market reforms are justified on the basis that employers won’t abuse them” could be rephrased as

    “National’s pro-employer labour market reforms are justified on the basis that normal, not-fucking-psycho-weirdo employers won’t abuse them”.

    Comment by rickrowling — March 3, 2015 @ 12:44 pm

  12. Baywide being successfully prosecuted detracts somewhat from the management universally running awoke narrative.

    Comment by NeilM — March 3, 2015 @ 1:02 pm

  13. amuck, lord.

    Comment by NeilM — March 3, 2015 @ 1:03 pm

  14. @pete: “DPF’s presumably well-polled line is that various worker protection laws are unnecessary because most bosses are good people. By the same logic we don’t need murder laws because most people aren’t going to kill anyone.”

    You say that, but what you ignoring is that those pesky anti-murder laws, created with good but naive intentions of protecting those who shouldn’t be murdered, also prevent the murdering of others who really need to be killed, because they said something unconventional or whatever.

    Comment by izogi — March 3, 2015 @ 1:14 pm

  15. “Baywide being successfully prosecuted detracts somewhat from the management universally running awoke narrative.”

    They were done for privacy infringement and what flowed from that. But if you read the judgment, you can see that they used the 90 day rule to pressure a young employee, and also used it in arguing with Hammonds employer that he could sack her. There doesn’t appear to have been any consequences for that, and had Hammond not had the fortitude to pursue this to the end, it would never have come to light.

    Comment by Stephen J — March 3, 2015 @ 1:20 pm

  16. Neil, yes, they were prosecuted in this case, however the evidence given shows bullying of staff, aside from Ms Hammond, that went unchecked and unpunished. The ruling also states that the management team still refuses to accept responsibility for their actions, gave contradictory evidence, blamed each other, and are on the whole unrepentant.

    I think that the fact it was prosecuted is unusual; most employees would not have pursued the matter so far, as the time and legal fees would have been considerable. It’s also different in rural areas as there are even fewer jobs around and people will put up with a lot for a pay check when the alternative is having to leave the region, or to go on the dole. This case says as much about Ms Hammond’s tenacity as it does about Credit Union Baywide.

    Comment by Greville — March 3, 2015 @ 1:25 pm

  17. Credit Union Baywide are a so-called customer-owned organisation. As SJ @ 10 says: “members don’t usually take a strong interest”. So these types of organisations are captured by those running it and are, effectively, accountable to no-one. As is often the case for such collective enterprises, lol. Sports clubs, churches, charities and NGOs are also exposed to the risk of capture.

    But seriously, organisations with poor lines of accountability tend to be, well, poor. They exist to perpetuate themselves and the nice jobs they provide, with little reference to whether they are effective or efficient. Eventually, they get their come-upance, as in this case.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 3, 2015 @ 2:04 pm

  18. So these types of organisations are captured by those running it and are, effectively, accountable to no-one.

    A classic principal-agent problem. It can be offset with a robust constitution though.
    Clearly NZCU Baywide either (i) didn’t have one or (ii) it was ignored by senior management. I suspect the latter given their comments wrt the Board.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 3, 2015 @ 2:18 pm

  19. Murder is a really bad analogy, there is never a good reason to murder someone, therefore it’s always and everywhere wrong. There isn’t any side effect of making murder illegal – it’s not going to lead to higher unemployment.

    There are many good reasons to terminate someone within 90 days, and the ability to do so makes it much easier to hire someone who might otherwise be considered risky.

    I could suggest that some people hurt themselves by running with scissors, therefore logically we should ban scissors. Sure, there are lots of times scissors are useful, but you can’t deny that in the wrong hands they can hurt people, and there are too many of the wrong sort of people out there.

    Comment by PaulL — March 3, 2015 @ 2:27 pm

  20. “It can be offset with a robust constitution though.” Or a committee!

    Seriously, who will uphold the constitution if there are no interested members or shareholders?
    Making the customer the owner hasn’t been proven to work.
    Once you have shareholders who are simply looking for a return on investment, then you have a group whose attentions are focused on what is being done that could harm that investment.

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 3, 2015 @ 2:55 pm

  21. Actually, murder is not “always and everywhere wrong”. What about:
    1) Capital punishment.
    2) Killing someone in self-defence.
    3) Killing an enemy in war.

    In any case, arguing about what’s the ‘best’ analogy is a pointless endeavour. The reality is the changes National’s pro-employer labour market reforms were justified on the basis that they would increase employment and the risk of abuse by bad employers were minimal. A case showing extremely bad behaviour by an employer suggests that the risk of abuse by bad employers is not, in fact, minimal. Therefore, it would be a good idea to at least monitor whether there was widespread abuse of certain new employment laws by employers, but the current government isn’t even doing that.

    Comment by wtl — March 3, 2015 @ 3:10 pm

  22. @PaulL murder by definition is illegal, “murder means “unlawful killing”. Taking someone’s life legally or outside of a system of law\customs isn’t murder.

    Comment by Robert Singers — March 3, 2015 @ 3:11 pm

  23. alas, most righties and many commentators have little or no experience in real organisations and understand nothing about interpersonal power dynamics. Anything like this, no matter the rules and regulations in play, come down to personal actions, beliefs and emotions. The way to prevent such horrible behaviour is to build an environment where it’s illegal (regulation by government), and culture where it’s unacceptable (business operating model). Alas, the latter often fails, which is why we regulate for the former.

    Comment by nukefacts — March 3, 2015 @ 3:22 pm

  24. @wtl: your logic doesn’t stand up, unless your definition of minimal is “never”. I suspect the percentage of employers abusing the 90 day provision is very very low. But I don’t have any statistics, and I suspect you don’t either. One example doesn’t invalidate the argument that abuse is minimal.

    @Robert Singers: OK, we can play that way, although I note the murder analogy wasn’t mine. Change it to “killing outside of war or self defence” if it makes you feel better. The point is it’s still a bad analogy that then leads to bad analysis.

    Comment by PaulL — March 3, 2015 @ 3:27 pm

  25. It depicts a culture of senior managers in an organisation who behave like toxic sociopaths and pour huge amounts of energy into settling petty vindictive scores – at the cost of running their business properly – but communicate all their awful, moronic, mostly illegal actions via a stream of bland corporate drivel and HR jargon about process and culture and branding and leadership.

    They’ll get to keep their jobs?

    Comment by unaha-closp — March 3, 2015 @ 4:24 pm

  26. “One example doesn’t invalidate the argument that abuse is minimal.”
    No it doesn’t, but I said that it SUGGESTs that abuse may not be minimal (try applying some Bayesian reasoning to the problem).

    “But I don’t have any statistics, and I suspect you don’t either. One example doesn’t invalidate the argument that abuse is minimal.”
    That is exactly the point I raised. The government hasn’t even bothered to collect statistics on this, so how can we even know? A responsible government would have done so. I don’t see you arguing that we should be collecting statistics, instead you are arguing that there are no statistics so there is no evidence of abuse.

    Comment by wtl — March 3, 2015 @ 4:35 pm

  27. Unless I’m mistaken, Hammond represented herself, at a time of great personal stress, in the face of superficial and misleading media coverage (haha a cake), and that NZCU went all out not just on her but on her friend, her new employer, McAuley, and the young employee they leaned on. It’s hard to see this as a case of the system working well — more a case of finally, the victim having the bloodymindedness to see justice done right to the end. Certainly makes me wonder how much else goes on we don’t hear about.

    Comment by Stephen J — March 3, 2015 @ 4:45 pm

  28. Seriously, who will uphold the constitution if there are no interested members or shareholders?

    Therein lies the rub, I guess.
    The model relies on interested members and a well structured constitution that protects their rights vis-à-vis management.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 3, 2015 @ 5:01 pm

  29. @wtl: I don’t think bayesian reasoning works that way. The belief was that abuse would be minimal. That meant that there was an expectation that there were some, but not many, examples out there. One example doesn’t change that in any way, so it would be no reason to update the priors.

    Comment by PaulL — March 3, 2015 @ 5:12 pm

  30. @PaulL: Bayesian analysis requires the collection of data. No such data is being collected to my knowledge. I presume you would advocate for some sort of data collection here?

    Comment by jmarshall — March 3, 2015 @ 6:25 pm

  31. Nationals ridiculous.ously timid reforms resulted in a business being slammed publicly and copping a huge fine, really.

    Comment by David — March 3, 2015 @ 6:27 pm

  32. It’s not clear to me that there’s any reasonable way to collect data. I guess we could ask employers to report to us whether they were bad employers or not, but I’m not sure we’d get accurate data. It seems to me that if there were any significant number of cases they’d be much more frequent in the media – someone poorly treated has a strong incentive to complain. The lack of said complaints is probably reasonable evidence that it’s not endemic.

    Comment by PaulL — March 3, 2015 @ 6:27 pm

  33. “The apology offered to Ms Hammond in the course of Mr Earle’s reading of his statement of evidence was delivered without any detectable note of sincerity.”

    Or, “we’re only sorry for getting caught”. For those sorts of ‘semi-feudal’ and ‘born-to-rule’ people, would boycotts and divestment teach them a lesson? Or would it take something horribly cataclysmic, like a Great Depression 2.0?

    Darren Greenwood wrote in Computerworld years ago about this sort of behaviour – considering he grew up during the Winter of Discontent of a generation ago.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — March 3, 2015 @ 6:32 pm

  34. The thing that would teach these people a lesson would be if employees stopped working for them (and therefore they went out of business). The only way I’d see this happening would be if our labour mobility was much higher, so those staff could move to a better employer easily, and if there were a lot of employers who were keen to employ new staff (most small business owners I talk to do just about anything to avoid employing staff due to the amount of potential pain it causes).

    Comment by PaulL — March 3, 2015 @ 7:09 pm

  35. PaulL: it seems to fit the description of a ‘take it or leave it’ industry.

    Labour mobility seems to work best when workers are highly skilled and experienced, and their departure is a potentially a big loss for the company. Economies of scale also apply – it’s probably less of an issue in the big cities, where there’s a wider choice of companies to work for.

    Neither of those apply to the emerging ‘precariat’, who if they’re not unemployed, tend to be working in dying industries in dying regions. Detroit, anyone?

    Comment by Kumara Republic — March 3, 2015 @ 7:45 pm

  36. “There are many good reasons to terminate someone within 90 days”

    Yes, but the current law is that you can terminate someone’s employment for no reason at all within 90 days. Can you really say there’s a good reason to do something for no reason?

    Comment by Delia — March 3, 2015 @ 7:47 pm

  37. Thank you for explaining how this was that bastard John Keys fault.

    Comment by Grant — March 3, 2015 @ 7:59 pm

  38. “The government hasn’t even bothered to collect statistics on this”

    They deliberately refused.
    #fify

    Comment by Sacha — March 3, 2015 @ 8:35 pm

  39. Isn’t the delightful Annw Tolley a gift to the nation from the inbred fruitbasket of Hawkes Bay?

    Comment by Sacha — March 3, 2015 @ 8:37 pm

  40. hey the e and w keys are rilly close, right

    Comment by Sacha — March 3, 2015 @ 8:38 pm

  41. The Tribunal decision is a good read, thanks for linking. In particular I enjoyed the damages section starting from par 170, there’s a “will they – won’t they” tension all the way up to par 182, then … bam.

    Comparing pars 176 and 183 gives you a clear idea of the tribunal’s view of NZCU Baywide’s actions..

    Comment by Martin V — March 3, 2015 @ 9:03 pm

  42. “One example doesn’t change that in any way…”
    Yes it does. Given that there is no widespread data collection, this one example is one of the only data points available. Since it is more likely under the hypothesis that “abuse is not minimal” than “abuse is minimal”, the priors should be updated.

    “The lack of said complaints is probably reasonable evidence that it’s not endemic.”
    You are ignoring the fact that in this very example, there was clearly an attempt to abuse the 90-day trial period (by one company pressuring another to abuse it no less, supported by a HR consulting company). Yet, the verdict relates to a breach of privacy, and little has been said about the attempt to abuse the trial period. It also isn’t one isolated incident – according to the evidence presented in that verdict, a group of executives in that company seemed to have absolutely no qualms about constructively dismissing another employee and abusing a position of authority to pressure a young worker to obtain the ‘cake image’ from the Facebook page (with obvious threats to the young workers employment). However, there have been no employment disputes that have arisen as a result of those actions.

    “It’s not clear to me that there’s any reasonable way to collect data.”
    I can think of a myriad number of ways to collect meaningful data, e.g. having employers report the number of times they’ve used the provision and the number of staff retain versus dismissed, having employees report whether the provision made them more like to hire staff or not, having employers report to the ministry regarding reason for terminating the employment, obtaining data from employees that are retained or dismissed (doing this on a random sample of employers would suffice). All of this would be useful for building a picture regarding the relative benefit versus potential for abuse of the provision.

    Comment by wtl — March 3, 2015 @ 9:03 pm

  43. @PaulL: “It seems to me that if there were any significant number of cases they’d be much more frequent in the media – someone poorly treated has a strong incentive to complain. The lack of said complaints is probably reasonable evidence that it’s not endemic.”

    Given how bulling works, where one or more people exert power and influence over another, I’d not be surprised if few people complained about it. Especially when (1) doing so heightens the chances of losing a job when any job is better than none, (2) complianing goes hand-in-hand with stress and uncertainty, and lots of people already have more than enough stress and uncertainty in their lives, and (3) not everyone wants to risk being be the centre of attention. Especially when it means they’re likely to be judged by a million armchair critics with little context. Try finding work once you’re a household name or that kind of reason.

    Anecdotes I’ve heard from friends in various jobs, especially but not always low paid, suggests to me that workplace bullying is fairly ubiquitous in some industries. Unfortunately it’s hard to obtain evidence when most victims are more interested in just getting on with their lives as well as they can, because it’s less worse than the alternative. Ms Hammond seems to be an unusual exception to this. Maybe it’s not obvious if you don’t happen to work in one of them or know people who are affected.

    Comment by izogi — March 3, 2015 @ 9:26 pm

  44. Danyl seems to be saying that some employers want to have their cake and eat it.

    Comment by ross — March 3, 2015 @ 9:29 pm

  45. izogi: Yep, if there’s under-reporting of workplace abuse, then it’s likely due to the potential publicity that comes out of it, and the fear of reprisal and becoming ‘too hot to touch’. Call it if you will a form of industrial McCarthyism, which was a probable factor in a preventable disaster like Pike River. It’s a similar thing with under-reported rape cases to the police.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — March 3, 2015 @ 9:54 pm

  46. Sanctuary #1: “the sort of semi-feudal managerial class you find in unscrutinised backwaters of NZ like Hawkes Bay”

    I can think of at least one very big Wellington Ministry (which I am not employed by, thank god) where this kind of bullying, personal attacks and direct lying by incompetent managers threatened by the effectiveness of their staff are all entirely standard MO for some of the senior management team. It’s not an issue for ‘backwaters’, it’s an issue for workplaces everywhere. It undermines valuable work, and destroys hard working individuals.

    Comment by Peed Taorht — March 3, 2015 @ 10:46 pm

  47. Peed Taorht: did it used to be headed by a pair of large earrings? Or was it otherwise an agency involved in a massive upwards transfer of wealth?

    Comment by Kumara Republic — March 3, 2015 @ 11:57 pm

  48. “…This is the part I found most surprising…”

    I don’t. You’ve got to understand the environment these guys operate in. There is no media scrutiny – the local papers were amalgamated and gutted of any proper oversight role decades ago, the local ZB stations centralised to Auckland decades ago, and TV treats the provinces like it does Haiti – a foreign place suitable only for disaster stories and the occassional puff piece. Jobs are scarce, employers go unscrutinised. Wealth is concentrated to a narrow band. Hawkes Bay nowadays has a quasi-third world economy, where skilled middle class jobs have been eviscerated by three decades of neoliberalism and an incestuous, semi-feudal “business” class and remnant squatocracy rules over a low paid, low skill service sector workforce, with high unemployment to keep the peasants docile and under control. Like all third world economies, the place runs on nepotism, patronage and thinly disguised nod and wink corruption.

    @Peed Taorht – I agree. I guess it is possibly just more brazen and normalised in places like Hawkes Bay.

    Comment by Sanctuary — March 4, 2015 @ 7:17 am

  49. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11411740

    “Louise no longer works here, or anywhere. We arranged, for her, er, termination using the services of a local “cultural organisation”.

    I don’t consider this inappropriate. I’m sure she’ll do well in her new foundational role in the building industry.”

    Comment by richdrich — March 4, 2015 @ 4:10 pm

  50. I am an employer and am disgusted by the slags hammond and her sister. this country has gone bonkers..where was the penalty for defaming the name of NZCU… as I said just lowlife slags and thankfully one day both will struggle to obtain jobs due to this incredible dumb decision to vindicate saying c…ts and f..k you toan employer

    I’d love tosee nzcu management bake a cake and say f..k you Hammond….and post on Facebook.. just two slags

    Comment by peter — March 4, 2015 @ 10:05 pm

  51. #49: Poetic justice is done.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — March 4, 2015 @ 10:22 pm

  52. @Peter 51

    Firstly, I think it’s great that someone who appears to be functionally illiterate can be an employer in NZ. Good on you for breaking down those barriers!

    Secondly, I’m sure your employers appreciate your down to earth style and can be confident that you wouldn’t be a vindictive arsehole if they found themselves in a similar situation – I like your implication that as an employee, you think it’s OK to moderate an employee’s private interactions and thoughts; it shows a really progressive management style.

    Thirdly, it’s nice to see to tacitly acknowledging the importance of individual liberty and privacy by anonymously posting on a blog and referring to two people who you don’t know as “slags”, knowing that you are completely secure in doing so.

    Lastly, you might want to take a look at The Defamation Act 1992 to gain an understanding that an honestly held opinion does not constitute defamation. But I’m sure you knew that already.

    Comment by Gregor W — March 5, 2015 @ 9:04 am

  53. Of course if Danyl was as unethical as the Baywide management team it’d be a pretty simple task to track down Peter’s email address and dox him for all the world to see.

    Comment by Conrad — March 5, 2015 @ 9:24 am

  54. “I’d love tosee nzcu management bake a cake and say f..k you Hammond….and post on Facebook.”
    Two wrongs, peter…

    Comment by Clunking Fist — March 5, 2015 @ 11:52 am

  55. Why is it that we vilify religious fundamental fuckwits of whatever persuasion but praise uncivilised self entitled gordon geckos?

    Self appointed provincial aristocrats have never had respect for mere humans.

    They do not understand that respect is earned, not endowed. Respect is a two way transaction.

    Treat someone disrespectfully you can expect to be treated disrespectfully back, it does not matter which OB or OG or business association you belong.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — March 5, 2015 @ 11:12 pm


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