New workplace bullying reference group established

Queensland’s Education and Industrial Relations Minister, Cameron Dick, has always been a strong critic of school bullying but now he has focussed on workplace bullying.

According to Minister Dick’s media release on 10 July 2011 the government is setting up a special reference group to examine workplace bullying.  A spokesperson for the minister told SafetyAtWorkBlog that the membership of the reference group is unlikely to be finalised.

The Minister is quoted as saying.

“Queensland currently has existing laws to address workplace bullying and protect workers from harassment and the time is right to review these laws….I am establishing a workplace bullying reference group to look into the incidence of bullying and strategies to prevent bullying in Queensland workplaces.

The reference group will consist of senior worker and employer representatives, as well as legal and academic experts. This group will ensure that Queensland’s framework for dealing with workplace bullying remains valid and effective in modern-day workplaces.”

Significantly part of the time being right to review these laws was the recent introduction of Brodie’s Law in Victoria

“This includes the new Victorian laws, which have criminalised the offence of bullying in the workplace and included a reference to bullying in the definition of stalking.   The legislation also extended the definition of mental harm to include ‘psychological harm and suicidal thoughts’.”

The media statement also said that the reference group is due to holds its first meeting in August 2011 and will complete its review by 31 December 2011.  This timeline is very fortunate as new OHS laws will come into effect one day later on 1 January 2012.

Also this reference group will be able to take advantage of a new draft national code on workplace bullying which is rumoured to be released by Safe Work Australia as part of the second round of codes on 11 July 2011.

A major challenge for Minister Dick and the reference group will be to differentiate control strategies for bullying in the workplace from bullying at school and cyberbullying.  Each environment has a different set of rules and power relations that require different control strategies.  The chance of success of the reference group will be negatively effected if there are child psychologists or off-topic academics on the group.  The structure of the reference group must focus on the specific needs, risks and opportunities for combating workplace bullying.

Kevin Jones

7 thoughts on “New workplace bullying reference group established”

  1. Tony Harrison\’s suggestion of joining a union is a good one. However, in my experience unions have rarely helped because of incompetence and lack of interest on their part. Bullying by union officials of union members is not spoken about much, but it goes on, particularly when a worker or workers show up their union officials for being anything but helpful when the workers have been bullied at work by management ! Unions only seem interested in negotiating EB\’s and not much else as it is all too hard for them.

    1. I am a member of several unions and have been for many years. I agree that OHS issues are often a secondary consideration in wages and work conditions negotiations but when a worker faces a hazard there is often no one who provides the same level of support and attention as a union, even those unions that are described as white-collar.
      I can say from first hand experience, that the support of a union organizer on a safety issue can be an important psychological base when needed.

  2. Tarisha, If you are not a member of a union I would suggest that you join one so that you at least have someone to advocate on your behalf. If you are a member I would strongly suggest you contact your state secretary and advise of your situation.

    As an individual it can be very difficult to get satisfactory outcomes.

    Good luck!

  3. I have just a an issue with staff speaking out similar to S. Thompson above.
    Whilst working for an Aged Care Facilitator/head office in Qld I was subject to humiliation and bullying .
    The person who administered this bullying was considerably younger than myself and for some reason was not introduced to me on my first day as my Supervisor … a responsibility of the HR and Office Management …nor was this supervisor mentioned on my Contract of Employment.
    And so….I had to find out in an awkward manner and then concede to take verbal humiliation and abuse as a consequence.
    As a 55 year old woman who had recently buried my 21 year old son I was devastated at the humiliating comments, disrespect and anxiety this was bullying was causing me.
    This Supervisor\’s English language was often undiscernible and when I very politely asked her to repeat her sentences …she ignored my request and simply moved on to more inaudible dialogue. Her attitude to train was humiliating and administered in an ongoing intimidating fashion.
    She succeeded in making my life feel worthless in a very short space of time. when my strength and emotions plummeted. My work was important to me and I did however not consider it appropriate to bring my bereavement to work with me.
    On the second weekend I seriously considered suicide as I could not endure the bullying. My life seemed to have turned around from healing and progress studying for a Diploma of Accounting to a downward slope quicker than I could deal with.
    Getting employees to come forward is always intimidating for fear of retribution.
    Promises were made by the employer to investigate and question the staff for evidence but as far as I know this did not happen….as to do so would have revealed a massive turnover in staff
    The HR person and two brand new staff were present while I was questioned One of these new people (who had only been employed for two weeks) wrote to tell me I had no case.
    My contractual Office Manager and the HR person seem to have disappeared from all responsibility and communication
    I am happy I have survived and come through this with emotional support and my life intact.
    Would Cameron Dick and Worksafe be the best place to lodge this bullying for investigation ?

  4. The one thing Cameron Dick is achieving, is that he is keeping the subject topical and this will have the effect of making possible perpetrators mindful of potential consequences. particularly the criminal consequences

    The contribution of S. Thompson pretty much sums it up and in my very considerable experience, is the standard modus operandi in the majority of organisations, public and private, that have a chain of command.

  5. I really hope that investigating workplace bullying doesn\’t just focus on peer to peer bullying but what i call corporate bullying, where people are held back by promotions or treated differantly by management because of differance of opinion. I work in the mine industry where this is a common issue. You may be in line for a differant machine and a peson which has little experience will operate the machine before you even if you have more experience. If you speak out about this you will be targeted and watched closely until you make enough mistakes to fire you or force you to resign. If you sit in one of our meetings and they ask \”has anyone got anything for safety today\” you can hear a pin drop as no one dares speak out!

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