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ACC, which employs about 480 staff in Dunedin, spent $74million to restructure its operations to raise productivity and make the ACC more client-centric, but Public Service Association (PSA) union members say it is having the opposite effect.
Case managers now had overwhelming caseloads, staff faced huge backlogs of work and rising stress and job dissatisfaction were resulting in staff "dropping like flies", ACC staff reported when surveyed last month.
Local PSA organiser Shaun Scott said the national survey results accurately reflected the feelings of more than 200 union members working in the ACC’s Dunedin offices.
Staff wanted to be proud of their work and help their clients but workplace conditions made it difficult, which was very distressing.
"The concern with that is then people get to breaking point ... That does leave people pushing sometimes beyond their capacity to cope," Mr Scott said.
Comments on the survey, collected by union delegates from staff around the country, paint a grim picture.
One union delegate said frontline staff in her branch were "regularly crying in the stairwells due to the increased workload, increased stress and decreased client satisfaction".
Other staff were taking "stress leave, [were] at breaking point or resigning with or without a job to go to," another delegate said.
The 2019 restructure resulted in the ACC managing claims nationally.
Clients with complex needs have a personal case manager, which the ACC now calls a recovery partner.Those needing some assistance are assigned a personal recovery co-ordinator, and those needing little help are managed by teams of up to 20 recovery assistants who carry out more administrative tasks.
Complaints to management were fruitless, the survey found.
"ACC leadership has made it known to all staff that the model and new way of working isn’t going to change, so if staff don’t like it, they know where the door is," one person said.
ACC acting chief executive Mike Tully said workloads had increased and staff turnover was higher than he would like, but 183 additional people had been hired nationally to ease the pressure.
The restructure had still been a success, but extra workloads were due to more people having accidents than the ACC had anticipated, Mr Tully said.
The ACC had planned for 4% claims growth but had experienced 10.8% since the national Covid-19 lockdown was lifted, he said.
ACC staff had been doing an "absolutely tremendous job" coping with the workload and the organisation’s own staff surveys showed improvements.
"We’ve still got some way to go, I don’t deny that."
— Additional reporting RNZ