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Staff 'no confidence' attack on NZAF boss

Wed 29 Aug 2007 In: New Zealand Daily News

Indications that a letter of no confidence in the Executive Director of the NZ AIDS Foundation has been tabled by a number of the organisation's staff have been deflected by the NZAF, with a clear implication that employment issues are at the root of the attack. However, confidential sources have backed up the existence of the letter, which comes against the background of one of the biggest staff shake-ups the NZAF has seen in recent years. Whilst neither confirming or denying the alleged existence of a declaration of no confidence in Rachael Le Mesurier, penned by some or all of its Hamilton staff, the Foundation has framed the matter as one of employee relations upon which it will not comment publicly "out of respect for the privacy of all staff concerned". In a statement issued today, in response to GayNZ.com's questions about the existence of such a letter and seeking background information, the Foundation and its board merely states that the NZAF "has Human Resource policies and procedures as well as a collective employment agreement which outline robust processes for matters relating to employment relations. In order for this process to be effective and transparent, and out of respect for the privacy of all staff concerned, correspondence related to employment relations issues are managed confidentially." In recent annual community consultations, initiated by Le Mesurier, the Foundation has been strongly criticised for ineffective safe sex campaigns over a number of years and an entrenched lack of direct contact between its Gay Men's Health (GMH) staff and sexually active gay men. Those criticisms have come against a soaring rate of NZ-contracted HIV infections and a rise in other STDs, particularly syphilis, amongst men who have sex with man. Another series of the public consultations is scheduled to kick off on September 11, details are listed in GayNZ.com's national Events Listings. The NZAF recently announced major restructuring and staff changes in its primarily head office-based Gay Men's Health team, which have already included the appointment of a new team leader, Matt Creamer, formerly with the NZ Police. The Foundation has also created a new role of National Campaigns Coordinator which has become the responsibility of existing long-time staffer Douglas Jenkin. Additionally, within the last week staff recruitment advertisements have been placed for a new HIV Prevention and Communications Manager role, "to oversee an expanded and refined team of skilled people with expertise in community relationships, social marketing and behaviour change." The new role is very similar to that of the current National Health Promotion manager, Te Herekiekie Herewini. A high profile member of the GMH team, Edward Cowley, best-known as his drag alter-ego Buckwheat, formally leaves the NZAF on October 5th. The NZAF has not commented on the specific reason for Cowley's departure and Cowley himself has not returned calls. Le Mesurier is on record as saying the sharp increase in new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men over the last few years "has been a wake-up call both for the community and the Foundation", and that staff changes are creating an opportunity "to improve NZAF's ability to achieve its goal of reducing HIV transmission."     Ref: GayNZ.com (j)

Credit: GayNZ.com News Staff

First published: Wednesday, 29th August 2007 - 5:18pm

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