PSA claims highlight insurance dispute with NIWA

Legal action taken

PSA claims highlight insurance dispute with NIWA

Insurance News

By Roxanne Libatique

Over 180 members of the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi (PSA) have submitted personal grievance claims against the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), citing discrimination related to health insurance benefits.

The crux of this dispute lies in NIWA's implementation of a health insurance scheme, purported to be part of a broader well-being initiative aimed at all permanent staff.

Union members, currently in the throes of negotiating a new collective agreement, alleged their exclusion from this benefit, which they claim is selectively offered to non-union employees. This move, according to PSA representatives, is viewed as an attempt by NIWA to undermine union bargaining power, casting a shadow of discrimination and resulting in heightened stress among its unionised workforce.

PSA National Secretary Duane Leo voiced concern aboutthe situation, emphasising the adverse effects on members who have had to delay medical treatments in the face of uncertainty regarding insurance coverage.

“NIWA said in September that the health insurance was a well-being policy offered to all permanent staff. However, when union members accepted the offer, NIWA refused to give it to them in an attempt to undermine the PSA's position,” he said. “It's deeply disappointing that NIWA would try and use staff well-being as some sort of bargaining chip.”

PSA takes legal action against NIWA

In response to what it perceived as an unfair practice, the PSA has taken legal steps against NIWA, seeking redress through the Employment Relations Authority.

“NIWA's stance on a policy supposed to promote wellbeing has caused a great deal of anxiety for our members. We know of members who have delayed surgery or other medical treatment hoping the issue of the medical insurance would be resolved,” Leo said. “The stress has been compounded because people taking up the medical insurance had to apply within 90 days to have pre-existing conditions covered. Even if PSA members can eventually take up the health insurance, it is not clear if their pre-existing conditions will be covered, which is incredibly hard on people.”

The legal action accompanies planned picketing efforts at various NIWA locations, aimed at rallying support for equitable health insurance coverage, fair compensation in light of rising living costs, and addressing gender pay disparities within the organisation.

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