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ACC chief exec flies business class for $32k Europe work trip amid 390 proposed job cuts

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The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) chief executive is flying business class to Europe on a taxpayer-funded work trip just as staff are being consulted on a proposal to cut almost 400 jobs in an effort to reduce spending.

Megan Main, who became ACC’s chief executive in 2021, admitted the timing was not great but said the trip to attend a conference and hold meetings was important to improving ACC’s services.

“The timing of the trip coinciding with consultation on ACC’s change proposal is not what I would have chosen,” she told the Herald in a statement.

“I have carefully considered attending the conference and these meetings and believe the knowledge gained will help us with our important work to enhance rehabilitation outcomes for the New Zealanders ACC supports.

“I know this is a tough time for many of our kaimahi [staff] and I remain closely connected with the process and will continue to receive and consider consultation feedback while overseas.”

Main left New Zealand on Saturday ahead of the International Federation of Health Plans biennial conference in Paris. Main would be speaking at the conference.

She would then go on to spend four days in Finland, one day in Switzerland, one day in Ireland and two days in England to meet with “health system experts”, according to a statement from acting chief executive Michael Frampton.

The statement said Ireland and Finland had similar populations to New Zealand and “highly performing health systems”. It claimed Switzerland’s Suva scheme was the most comparable to New Zealand’s ACC and had a mandate for “prevention, rehabilitation and compensation of injured workers regardless of where their injury occurs”.

In London, Main would have two meetings with public sector departments for workplace health and safety.

The approximate cost of the trip was $32,000. The final cost would be declared as part of the annual declaration of chief executive expenses.

In his statement, Frampton said Main was travelling business class “for the long-haul flights within her itinerary”. She was expected to return on June 10.

Earlier this month, Main proposed to disestablish nearly 10 per cent of ACC’s staff with 390 roles on the chopping block.

Megan Main formerly led New Zealand’s Managed Isolation and Quarantine system during the pandemic. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Of the 390 roles, 81 were vacant. The proposal also included 65 new roles.

The Government was set to reveal in Thursday’s Budget how much its goal to reduce public service spending by up to 7.5 per cent had earned.

ACC, a Crown agency which manages injury claims, was not directed by the Government to tighten its belt but decided to pursue savings of about 6.5 per cent.

Main had said the proposals supported the Government’s saving priorities and “set up ACC for the future”.

Final decisions on the proposal were set to be shared with staff on June 26.

Earlier this month, the Public Service Association (PSA) said it was alarmed by the proposals, which included 29 dedicated injury prevention jobs at a time when the number and cost of injuries was rising in New Zealand.

“It makes no sense to propose these cuts, particularly as our working-age population is increasing,” PSA assistant secretary Fleur Fitzsimons said.

“This is just more dumb stuff forced on ACC by the Government’s spending cuts. We will all pay the price for years to come with more accidents, injuries and harm.”

The PSA chose not to comment on Main’s Europe travel.

ACC Minister Matt Doocey also did not comment, saying it was an “operational matter” for ACC and its board.

Adam Pearse is a political reporter in the NZ Herald Press Gallery team, based at Parliament. He has worked for NZME since 2018, covering sport and health for the Northern Advocate in Whangārei before moving to the NZ Herald in Auckland, covering Covid-19 and crime.

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