ACTU industrial officer is new WorkSafe executive

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been informed that Cath Bowtell has been appointed the new executive director of WorkSafe Victoria.  Bowtell’s name may be familiar to some Australians due to her recent contest to be the next President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).

Cath Bowtell is due to take on the position in the middle of 2010.

Bowtell has been a strong advocate for work/life balance and industrial issues related to working women.  According to a media report from March 2010, Bowtell was well-regarded by many unionists and was supported by the outgoing ACTU President, Sharan Burrows for the top job.

“As well as heading union negotiations in the lead-up to the passage of the Fair Work Act, Ms Bowtell drove the union movement’s women and work and family policy, including leading the 2005 Work and Family test case in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

She has overseen ACTU policy on superannuation and retirement incomes and sits on the boards and investment committees of Australian Super and AGEST Super.”

Appointing such a prominent unionist directly into the executive director role is a decision that may cause some concern in some sections of business but, if one takes unions as being one of the few organisations left that are ready to speak out on safety issues, Bowtell’s appointment augurs well for the profession.

On Bowtell’s departure from the ACTU in March 2010, Heather Ridout of the Australian Industry Group said

“Cath Bowtell is a formidable adversary very smart, committed and hard working.  She will be a loss to the trade union movement and I’m sure a number of employers will be expressing sighs of relief….. I wish her well in her future endeavours…”

There are bound to be some questions about her appointment as the first female executive director of WorkSafe due to the novelty but her sex is far less important than her competence and, from all indications in the media, ACTU documentation and testimonials, she is well able to fulfill the role and perhaps surpass some of John Merritt’s achievements.

It will interesting to see if she maintains her current Twitter account although four reTweets since February 2010 indicates she is not a big user.

Kevin Jones

[Note: before the obvious is pointed out, yes, SafetyAtWorkBlog’s tip about Paul Serong has proven wrong as has the mention of Julia Davison. ]

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