17 Aug 2022

Parliamentary Services confirms staffing for suspended Labour MP Sharma

10:42 am on 17 August 2022

Hamilton West MP Gaurav Sharma's office has one staff member and no further decisions have been made on his staffing since he publicly accused Labour colleagues of bullying.

Gaurav Sharma's constituency office

Gaurav Sharma's constituency office Photo: RNZ / Leah Tebbutt

Dr Sharma was suspended from Labour's caucus yesterday after a unanimous vote by the party's MPs.

He had taken accusations of bullying by the whips to the media last week and continued to publicly criticise the party right up until - and even during - the caucus meeting which led to his suspension.

The caucus determined he had breached confidentiality of caucus meetings and brought the party into disrepute, an offence which could have led to permanent explusion. For now, barring further breaches, he still has a chance to rejoin the caucus in December - but it is his final warning.

Parliamentary Service chief executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero has confirmed Sharma now has one employee working for him, and the service will aid recruitment of any new staff.

"However, no progress of decisions have been made in relation to this to date," Gonzalez-Montero said.

Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, head of parliamentary services, is questioned by a select committee

Parliamentary Service chief executive Rafael Gonzalez-Montero Photo: RNZ / DOM THOMAS

Dr Sharma's claims have been consistently rejected by Labour leadership as relating to an employment matter within his office, with high turnover and staff complaints of poor treatment prompting the whip and Parliamentary Service to impose interventions including management training and a hiring freeze.

He had made complaints about misspending of taxpayer funds and staff conduct to the party whips and Parliamentary Service, but claimed these were never investigated and instead the whips - whose job includes managing conflict and discipline in the party ranks - bullied and harrassed him.

The Parliamentary Service however said the complaints of misspending had been investigated and dismissed as having no basis, and party leader and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had reviewed records and seen no evidence of more widespread bullying.

Announcing his suspension yesterday, she said the caucus had lost trust in him after he took his frustrations public rather than through the usual processes. He had never approached her directly over his concerns, nor to the caucus which meets every sitting week.

"Staff had claimed that they were being treated poorly. And an intervention was rightly made to try and correct that situation. Then what has essentially been performance management has been turned into accusations of bullying, I've seen nothing to substantiate that," she said.

She also said it was her understanding a resolution had been reached with Sharma last Wednesday 10 August over his staffing, the day before he aired his frustrations to the media.

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