Blacklisted then vindicated? Tell us your story - by Karen Davis

In December we reported on an Early Childcare centre in Feilding whose license was suspended.

Charlotte Cook’s RNZ article said:

The investigation was launched after four Pitter Patter teachers resigned in a month and written complaints were given to the MOE.” and “Pauline [Murphy, the owner] also would like to intimidate us with her lawyers and saying she had connections in the Ministry and teachers council and could take our jobs and certificates at any time."

Charlotte Cook’s follow-up article on 26 January includes an EC teacher’s account of how “Ministry of Education process stifled complaints of abuse at childcare centre”.

We’ll be generous and put Pitter Patter’s treatment of children, the shortcomings of the MOE complaints process, and staff resigning because of poor working conditions, outside the scope of this article. There are plenty of daycare centres in Palmerston North, 18km away. ECE qualifications are portable, so we assume that staff turnover in this industry is neither high nor low and normally we would not hear about disputes being resolved by the employee simply finding a job elsewhere.

However, Ms Cook’s article mentions blacklisting:

The former Pitter Patter staff member said if they spoke out directly, Pauline Murphy would threaten their jobs and had taken other staff to the teaching council for complaining.

"I remember one day after the allegation came in from ministry about children being locked in the bedroom for disciplinary purposes. Not once were the teachers interviewed by MOE about these allegations and at the next staff meeting after [the Pitter Patter owner] was seemingly cleared of these allegations it was a real witch hunt as to who had reported it to MOE."

Another former teacher said there was always the risk of losing your job, or legal action if you did speak out.

"If you went to the extreme to voice what happened at Pitter Patter and the truth about Pauline she would then go out of her way to come after you, making promise of her constant threats with using the teachers council and going after your practising certificate."

Let’s break this down. An ECE degree takes at least three years to complete. A three year provisional period follows. It would take most teachers several years to pay off their student loan. The population within a 20km radius of Feilding is around 100,000, so there would be plenty of job opportunities available within that 20km radius.

Vexatious and retaliatory complaints to a regulatory body is reputation theft and we have no doubt Pitter Patter’s owner Pauline Murphy has cost former staff tens of thousands of dollars in lost wages as a result of new and prospective ECE employers becoming aware of Ms Murphy’s complaints, while unaware of the retaliatory nature of those complaints. It must have been terrifying for those teachers who had received a threatening letter from a lawyer, and then had to continue working with the manager who instructed that lawyer. But we can’t verify that until we hear from those ECE teachers directly, and only if they are willing to discuss the financial impact that Ms Murphy’s conduct has had on them.

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