More evidence of the toxic WINZ culture & why Jacinda must act now 

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Another week and another example of the toxic culture within WINZ…

Work and Income wrong on benefits and redundancies for decades

Work and Income appears to have spent decades wrongly advising some benefit applicants that they cannot get support until their redundancy has run out.

…as I have pointed out dozens of times before, WINZ and MSD are neoliberal weapons used to beat the bejesus out of anyone unfortunate enough to need their ‘assistance’. Here we have another Department breaking their own rules, just like Housing NZ did with the meth testing scandal and will anyone get sacked?

This is the public services, no one gets sacked.

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WINZ and MSD use needlessly obtuse and use draconian measures to make applying for and staying on welfare almost impossible and it has created a toxic culture where staff have become petty sadists who delight in tormenting beneficiaries.

This is fine and dandy during normal political culture when National bash the dirty filthy bennies and Labour do nothing to stop them, but this ISN’T normal political culture, this is an unprecedented once in a century pandemic that forces vast chunks of NZ who have never interacted with the sadists of WINZ to suddenly experience them in all their Wellington wonder.

This will lead to an enormous backlash as desperate people tell their stories online in shock that WINZ can be so petty and cruel.

The 35 year neoliberal experiment de-unionised the working class so that they look at the pittance they earn weekly from de-unionised work places and compare it to the welfare cheque with envy, this dynamic has been exploited by National and Labour over the years resulting in a Government Department whose role is to intimidate and frighten people from applying for anything.

This toxic culture is ignored when it’s the poor and brown who shoulder it, but the newly unemployed will tolerate this about as well as middle class folk deal with South Auckland policing tactics used in their leafy suburbs.

Labour’s cowardice to date to force a culture change with mass sackings has been driven by a fear of annoying the self-serving public service unions and angering muddle Nu Zilind who have been trained by shock jock media to react with hatred towards beneficiaries.

Labour need to urgently implement all the recommendations of the Welfare Working Group and read the riot act to MSD & WINZ to drop the spite and start seeing the welfare of those applying as paramount. If Labour allow the toxic culture in WINZ to remain, the backlash will be deafening come election day.

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33 COMMENTS

  1. Labour do not have the courage or the spine to do anything brave. Its all just a little bit frightening and too hard for them to stomach. Their middle class wokester voters will not like the party choosing poor Beneficiaries over them.

    However, many of those wokesters will be on a bene shortly if theyre not already and will start to complain about how insufficient the level of financial support is and how complicated the processes are to get money to pay the bills! Wellcome muthafuckers to the “Nightmare” of 315,000 other people before you arrived! Get to the back of the queue.
    With another 300,000 due to be leveraged out of work and dumped on to the pile at Gestapo HQ WINZ. Employers will be lining up for new workers with the best skills with a massive subsidy attached and the government will oblige because thats what this lame arse labour government does.
    They’ve bn out smarted and fucked over again by the corporates and business industry again. 1983 to 1993 all over again.

  2. I feel like a stuck record but my time on the benefit left me with a fear for those who need to deal with them on a regular basis.
    I am a National supporter and while some on the right have a fixed view of benefituries I have voiced my thoughts that they need help support and oppetunity rather than being hounded and belittled. There are those that raught the system just are there are wealthy people who avoid tax but in both cases it is a minority.
    I hope Labour have got wheels in motion to step up the number of staff at WINZ and that they are trained to deal with the avalanche of those needing there help for the first time in their life other wise we will see more stories of stressed people losing it

  3. > This is the public services, no one gets sacked.

    Neither should they. The public service can’t operate independently of the government of the day, and try to serve the public interest even when that govt doesn’t, if public servants live in constant fear of being sacked over procedural mistakes. There was a time when the relevant Minister would fall on their sword over a scandal like this. It’s the Ministers who ought to be accountability to the public for whether departments in their Ministry are doing their job properly.

    Now if particular public servants are found to have knowingly and willfully broken the law, that’s a different kettle of fish, they ought to face the consequences for that. But if it’s a behaviour happening across the whole of WINZ, that suggests WINZ staff are following instructions handed down to them (presumably by the previous government) to … interpret the legislation in a way that discriminates against beneficiaries and cuts costs. Blaming frontline WINZ staffers for this is petty and counterproductive.

    • This sounds to me what the germans ought to say after the war, betel ist befell. this were my orders. fact is they are as guilty for not speaking out or even doing their job with such an sway that people only can think that they really hate everyone. And yes a minister falling on his sword because he cannot shoot himself in the foot since all weapons are taken because some stupid aussie thought he could get away with something what no kiwi would ever think off. but no even a minister that went in the wrong three times hasn’t been sacked.

    • I had to go on a benefit because I had a brain tumour. Having applied and shown all the right paperwork I had been waiting several weeks and was about to default on my rent. My case manager had promised to call me that day and advise when it would come through.

      When I called just before 5pm I was told nothing had happened and when I asked for more help she hung up on me after saying “This conversation is over”

      I complained to MSD but a year later I see she is deputy head of the branch.

      It’s a toxic culture and no one is held accountable, including that evile bitch that left a grown man in tears.

  4. Did someone neglect to inform the mangers at WINZ that National have not been the government since late 2017?
    It reminds me of when I studied European medieval history and it was noted that the king’s justice trundled on through changes of monarch and it only changed when the king made a concerted effort to change it.
    Wars, plagues, witch hunts – the king’s justice was above all these; the judges regarded themselves as answerable only to God.
    See the parallel here?
    There is one good thing about when United States has a change of administration. Just about every high level appointee in the old administration gets the boot because the new administration doesn’t trust them to do what they are told. Probably rightly so in many circumstances.
    That would take care of the pack of National hacks that run WINZ if it happened here.
    Oh no, I hear you plead!
    That would politicise the civil service!
    And it isn’t politicised now??
    Unfortunately because New Zealand has a small population there wouldn’t be enough suitable replacements.
    Thats why the toxic civil service continues on its god appointed task to put the boot into beneficiaries, because they have been doing that for three decades now and it has now become a custom.
    And other thing I learned from medieval history – custom is everything, goodwill is nothing.

    • Mike, if you and others here keep wringing your hands and say this problem runs so deep it’s too hard for this Government to fix it makes this Government and JA irrelevant. I don’t believe they’re irrelevant, and like Martyn has stated in the title of this article Jacinda has to do something. If she and her government don’t change the culture at WINZ it’s because of one of two reasons. Either, like National they don’t want to, or they’re fucking useless. You choose which. Don’t give me this, it’s too hard bullshit. I have a suggestion, take all the managers to a camp or convention and make it clear what’s expected. Those who don’t wish to Change can resign. Just get on and do something FFS.

    • Mike the Lefty – Unfortunately because New Zealand has a small population there wouldn’t be enough suitable replacements.

      Well NZ should import its social workers if it can’t get enough good ones here. Let’s have some competition as to standards of welfare and happiness of the clientele. We import everybody else.

    • What dribble.
      Labour is well represented by its supporters in the public service.
      They do as the Government wants, indicating that they have being what they are with the approval of the Government – both National and Labour.

  5. I do not agree with the premise that everyone that works at WINZ is personally weaponized against all people. I believe most of these people genuinely go into social work for a better good. The problem is incompetence, and the incompetence is a result of high lies. Again, high lying from those in power does much more damage then people think.

    • The workers are behaving according to direction. If they don’t like what they are being asked to do they may not be able to get another job and stay on, but they will be affected by the culture they work in, and will have to be part of a team. And incompetence? What if what is happening is entirely part of a system to create a toxic culture that will ensure that people in need no longer look to the welfare agency to help them, so it continues to harm them to fend them off. The drop in payout and numbers is what decides the competence of the Dept and the workers in it. It is an entirely competent system at what it is trying to do. If people go into social work for a better good, then there must be a huge group that is totally disillusioned and wanting out. I would expect that there is a great turn-around in staff. Am I right? If so that would prove Angie that you are right and those people can’t stand being in a situation that makes people’s situations worse and has them crying in the offices as I have heard they do. No matter now, so many have to talk on an impersonal telephone.

      • Well said. And what you have stated can be extended to all of society. So, then everyone is toxic everywhere. Show me a government agency or business and I will show you a toxin. We are being asked to speak to our Doctors (not on the “telephone”) but on Zoom or whatever, and this is not temporary, but being implemented. The power of touch with real medical professional, especially in diagnosing early breast cancer is very important, but here we are.

    • Yes Angie – the person at the top within an organisation sets the tone for the entire organisation as a general rule.
      WINZ needs a new mindset – new management – with a heart preferably.

  6. Never put down to malice what can be explained by incompetence.
    It would appear that my father was royally screwed some years ago after he was made redundant.
    However I don’t think they screwed them intentionally. I suspect they lack the intelligence to do that.

    • I agree. I am sorry about your Father- and I can only hope he gained the responsibility of those of us who have the voice, sensibility and intelligence to advocate and support those who deserve it. And if he didn’t have advocates, what a shame. I have advocated with more then one person at WINZ in the worst time of their lives. Yeah, you need all your paperwork together. Take some time get it together. Take a shower. Be prepared to wait. Answer some questions. Yep, they will fuck up. But I really do not believe the fuck ups are out of malice. And not sure about the new normal but in the old normal—Readers- do not be afraid to ask a friend to meet at WINZ with you k. And if you ever think you are entering a meeting where you may be made redundant- get an advocate to be present in the meeting with you. An advocate can be anyone – this advocacy can save your job long enough to make plans. And most redundancies are illegal so do keep that in mind.

  7. Personally I am disappointed in Carmel Sepuloni. She chose the winning side of Labours infighting and I think has been promoted far too soon and is out of her depth. There is no hope of any reform under her. Perhaps the only hope is if a lot of Karens lose their jobs

  8. If any of you beleive that the government or anyone of political persuasion is gonna do something, then your bigger fools than a bunch of warriors supporters believing that this is there year!!. They wont/cant do anything as the real bosses of this country the business roundtable wont allow it. Now move on and find something that possibly could be changed like the warriors name to the wurriors!!

  9. Finally. I’m glad someone had the gumpsion to write about it! I could not agree more, the practices of winz is sadistic in an effort to ‘divert’ the only plausible explanation of why you would need help – because you are a lazy good for nothing. It was the single most disgusting draconian experience of my life attending one of their, ‘no wonder you don’t have a job you filth’ it’s truly disgusting that these people think in any way they help nzers. They should all be fired.

  10. It is very interesting to read views claiming the culture within WINZ & MSD to be toxic.
    Referring WINZ & MSD as ‘Gestapo HQ’. Accusations that ‘WINZ and MSD practice a toxic culture where staff have become petty sadists who delight in tormenting beneficiaries’.
    These views resonate very accurately with my experience with MSD.
    I am a 68 yr old, KIWI born & bred, paid taxes for >50 yrs. Never had a benefit of any kind and MSD determine that I am ineligible for NZ Superannuation.
    I complied with MSD rules only to be advised (2yrs later) that I was incorrectly informed. Their latest response is that ‘I am not living a ‘settled lifestyle’. What does that mean and where is that stated in any Legislation? Their most recent advice is that I should be elligible by 2027 (age 75 yrs). Fortunately my wife & I saved during our careers and have managed to support ourselves during the past 7 yrs (as we have done for >50 yrs).
    These people simply make rules to suit themselves and then deny any responsibility. They should be accountable for the torment and damage they inflict on people’s lives.

    • I wonder if you have gone to Grey Power to seek help,. I read your story but could not understand why you are not eligible.
      I was not aware that you could be denied the pension once you raved 65. I come from England and I signed over the money they were due to pay me to NZ otherwise it was easy

  11. The problem is that the welfare system has been broken for decades. Neoliberalism reduced benefits and reduced or deliberatelty concealed eligibility criteria to allow employers to create a low paid dispensable workforce.

  12. The spokes person from WINZ admitted the problem with redundancy payments which were clearly exempt from benefit calculations. They then included retirement payments in the list of payments that are counted. Problem is they are not meant to be counted either. So clearly they are still not reading the legislation correctly. It is also entirely possible that the computer systems are also calculating these incorrectly which you would have to think is the case since no one noticed the discrepancy before..

  13. It’s interesting Martyn. No one especially those that have a vested interest want to utter the word Neo Liberalism almost like they don’t want its true meaning or something to be known. It’s a joke to them but all to real to those at the coal face. I heard P Williams on Magic talk kind of snigger about it when talking to old Winnie. As if it was a fairy tale.

  14. For years… WINZ just like HNZ have become offices of bullies and have driven many genuine New Zealanders to mental illness, suicidal and often violence within the home especially towards their loved ones when they become helpless and desperate. If JA and her government are not going to address this issue and make amends to this cruel act of denying those in need what they deserve, this will be the end of my labour party supporting years and that of my whole family. JA should know by now that when parents are under financial stress it’s often the women and children who become the victims of family violence.

  15. When the world is defining the true course of humanity.,where life and death has limited boundries .where there is no army or weapon to defend yourself.our jacinda has proven in many ways to be the leader of all time in this living world.This time is to care and share for each other so we can see another day And our PM is doing that no other pm has done.in such a short time jasinda has the world to her feet.mother Teressa had recognition after her lifetime charity where jasinda has accomplished in no time.i strongly believe our PM is the best of the best for the leadership.she defended our country with diginity n pride..This is the time to save lives not money.Thank u jasinda

  16. This Gov’t has been in 2.7 years… it has to own all of the faults of any department. It has been there long eonough( actually..far to long ) to make any and all changes it has liked . So don’t blame previous governments for the slack one we have now. Yes WINZ &MSD BOTH need a real shake up but with ministers like our current Health minister who does not now right from wrong and a prime minister who wont sack either..how will they shake up WINZ & MSD?

  17. Totally agree with this. The way their staff treat people is disgusting. I had a case manager ask me if I had kids and I said no. She responded with that’s good, people like you shouldn’t have kids.

  18. So when exactly is the Rubber gonna meet the road with this Nest of Snakes? Why has no Class Action Suit been launched against these toxic public Servants and their Fat Cat Bureaucrat and Miserysterial Bosses??? I’m sure Sue Bradford’s AAAP bunch in Auckland are overflowing with prime Complainants, as are every other small Organisation that provide Benefit Advocacy Services, as well as Grey Power & Action Station are overflowing with people that have been experiencing Punitive, Vitriolic treatment and benefit & human rights denials. When is enough enough??
    This stack of comments is typical of how Kiwi’s needing help in dire circumstances are faring with this NEOLIBERAL Blunt Social Service Instrument of Mass Civil Destruction… Do we need to riot to get the necessary attention we deserve?? Where’s the Beef in this shit sandwich??

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