Some of the nation’s most prominent businesses fear newly proposed rules on workplace bullying which they fear will force them to monitor the social networking of employees, which could also expose themselves to bullying claims by workers.
Safe Work Australia released a draft code of practice on bullying, but a coalition of 200 companies – many in the top 100 – are rallying against a code that could be used in court actions, alleging that bullying is extremely subjective and employee social media is out of their control outside of working hours.
The companies feel that social media the number one weapon bully’s use but if they monitor social media pages of their employees, that in itself could be construed as bullying.
The draft code reports that bullying can be done via email or text messages, internet chat rooms, instant messaging or other social media channels.
The office of Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten remarked that feedback on the code would be “appropriately considered in due course”. The office said the government had recently introduced provisions to the Fair Work Act to tackle “the scourge of workplace bullying” as it had a dreadful human cost and was a significant cost to the economy.
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The NSW government has backed the parliamentary inquiry into WorkCover following a NSW Industrial Relations report of workplace bullying. This report emerged when a senior employee was allegedly bullied out of his job.
Greens MP David Shoebridge, who put forth the idea for an inquiry, has welcomed the government’s support. . ”It is completely unacceptable to have ongoing bullying in WorkCover which is the government body tasked with protecting all employees from harassment in the workplace,” he said.
”This most recent finding by the IRC raises serious concerns about the culture of WorkCover.
”There have been ongoing concerns within WorkCover of systematic bullying and mistreatment of staff for years, yet despite reviews and promises it seems nothing has changed.”
Mr Shoebridge cited 2011 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers which found 40 per cent of WorkCover employees reported experiencing harassment and bullying.
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Barbera Etter, former head of Tasmania’s Integrity Commission, has accused the State Governor of bullying. These accusations come nearly a year after Etter quit her job as Integrity Commissioner, one year into a five-year contract with the government.
Famed WA union boss Joe McDonald again been fined for bullying employees at a construction site. The most recent fine against Mr McDonald and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union takes the combined total against the pair to over $1 million since 2005, according to Fair Work Building and Construction.
Revealed in the Federal Magistrates Court, Mr McDonald, the CFMEU WA assistant secretary, said that if Herdsman Business Park i workers weren’t a member of the union they could “F**king go and find” employment elsewhere. There are no requirements for workers to be union members.
During a meeting with the employees of various subcontractors, Mr McDonald said he would close down the site because there were not enough amenities or toilets and the scaffolding was not safe. Two other CFMEU officers also instructed workers to stop work and leave the site. All but four did for the rest of the day. The court heard that shortly after, the site manager told Mr McDonald he had arranged for additional toilets for the site, but Mr Donald responded “I don’t care, the men aren’t going back to work”. Mr McDonald was found guilty of unlawful industrial action and making false and misleading statements about workers’ requirements to join the union and fined $6380. The union was fined $28,600 plus $15,000 in costs to be paid to FWBC. Mr McDonald and the CFMEU have been embroiled in numerous legal cases relating to bullying of workers at WA construction sites.
They were recently ordered to pay a $200,000 penalty for engaging in a targeted industrial campaign against the same company on another site. Last year Mc McDonald lost an appeal against a $8000 fine for taking unlawful strike action at City Square in the CBD on July 15, 2009. He had encouraged workers with occupational health and safety concerns to walk off the job for the day. The union also was fined $40,000 for the illegal action. FWBC chief executive Leigh Johns said Mr McDonald was misusing union members’ fees. “Mr McDonald is a recidivist who regularly flouts workplace laws and then turns up to court with no defence, ready to do a deal using CFMEU members’ funds,” Mr Johns said. “While we welcome the court’s handing down the penalties and costs, the fact is that Mr McDonald has wasted the court’s time, as well as some $250,000 worth of union funds in recent weeks alone. “If Mr McDonald stopped his pattern of unlawful behaviour, hard-working members of his union would be better off, in both their industrial outcomes, and through savings of some $1 million his actions have cost them in penalties since 2005.”
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The parliamentary inquiry revealed that the teenage boy left high school at age 16 to start work as an apprentice chef at a local hospital. It was at this hospital he experienced an ingrained culture of workplace bullying in the hospital kitchen. He was at the end of constant put-downs,jokes, sexual innuendo, tampering with his possessions and eventually, sexual abuse.
The brother was reportedly being bullied consistently for two years by his immediate supervisor and co-workers.
The culture of bullying in the kitchen had allegedly become so ingrained that many long-standing members of staff became used to it and subsequently turned a blind eye or laughed along with the taunting.
About the inquiry:
- The impacts of workplace bullying in Australia could be as high as $36 billion every year
- The committee in investigating what can be done to prevent workplace bullying
- Submissions are still open to the public, with the committee to report its findings to parliament in due course
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