Royal New Zealand Ballet today announced it has commissioned an independent review of its employment processes. This follows two weeks of intense scrutiny about dancer turnover, opportunities for New Zealand dancers and working conditions and practices.
A welcome move is the undertaking to give company artists a say in decision-making. At the moment there is no dancer representative on the board.
The review is expected to be finished by February or March next year and make recommendations to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, from which RNZB receives about $NZ5 million in funding.
STATEMENT FROM THE BOARD OF THE ROYAL NEW ZEALAND BALLET
15 December 2017
Recent speculation about the culture and employment practices of the RNZB are troubling and unfair.
The RNZB has worked hard over a number of years to ensure it is a good employer and that all its staff have a safe and supportive work environment. The welfare of the company’s artistic and administrative staff is of paramount importance to the Board.
However, in recent days, there has been on-going speculation about historic workplace bullying and other allegations about workplace practices including that the RNZB favours overseas artists over New Zealand dancers.
The Board is deeply concerned at these claims.
In relation to the alleged bullying, it is confident that where any complaint has been made about a company member immediate and proper steps have been taken to investigate and respond to the complaint. The Board has no tolerance for bullying or any other unsafe behaviour in the workplace.
In relation to the Board’s support for New Zealand dancers, 42% of the dancers are either New Zealanders or New Zealand trained. Both management and the Board would like this percentage to be higher and since her arrival in June new Artistic Director Patricia Barker has been in discussions with New Zealand dancers working overseas to encourage them to further their careers at home.
Ballet is a global business and the Board recognizes that many young dancers choose to launch their careers by attending overseas dance schools or joining overseas ballet companies. The RNZB is working hard to keep young dancers in New Zealand, or to entice them back.
What this week has shown, though, is that we must work harder.
The Board has today asked former Deputy State Services Commissioner Doug Craig to conduct an independent review of the RNZB’s employment processes, in particular its processes for responding to and managing complaints by employees. The Board wants to assure itself that the processes at the company are robust and meet the standards of best practice. The review will look at how previous complaints were handled, identify what, if any, further steps could have been taken and recommend what, if any, improvements can be made to ensure that employees can have confidence in the RNZB.
The review is expected to be completed in February-March 2018. The final report and recommendations will be provided to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.
Secondly, the Board is undertaking to look at new ways for artists in the company to have a say in the strategic decisions involving the RNZB. The Board will be seeking the views of dancers and others in the sector about the best way to achieve this. The way we deliver this is still very much open for discussion, but the commitment to give dancers an on-going opportunity to be heard is serious and will happen.
The Board acknowledges the hard work and dedication of all its dancers, technicians and administrators.
Earlier this week we announced that we intend to host a forum in the New Year, bringing together a range of interested parties to talk about the future of ballet in New Zealand. There is much to discuss. The Board looks forward to hearing a wide range of views about how to further grow and develop ballet in this country.