Speculation has been rife about the departure of Victorian WorkSafe’s CEO, Greg Tweedly since it was announced on 11 January 2012. Crikey (not available online) has aired questions about Tweedly’s lack of action on workplace bullying which WorkSafe has been accused of not addressing. The Age newspaper has juxtaposed the Liberal Government’s use of $A471 million of WorkCover premiums for consolidated revenue with Tweedly’s departure.
On the workplace bullying issue, Tweedly has said previously that he does not believe that WorkSafe has a toxic work environment. When the accusations were being aired in 2011 it was Tweedly who faced the media, where in the past it would have been more likely for the Executive Director to address these issues. Bullying accusations are highly embarrassing for WorkSafe as they issue the sdvice on preventing bullying at work, however WorkSafe is only one of the many government bodies in Victoria and in other Australian States that have been accused of this hazard. Other instances of workplace bullying reports have resulted in independent inquiries but not so with WorkSafe. Perhaps Tweedly is right and the working environment in WorkSafe is not toxic, or no more toxic than any other government department or authority. Perhaps the critics should be focussing on the problem of bullying in the workplace rather than the workplace, or the executive management, itself.
The Herald-Sun played the media release(not yet available online) straight and simply reiterated the content about Tweedly’ decision but The Age linked implied that Tweedly’s non-renewal of his contract was a response to the government’s removal of $A471 million of WorkSafe money. There has been little outrage over the government’s economic decision and The Age’s report seems to indicate that The Age sees the decision as an injustice. Placing money generated from and by the workers’ compensation premiums paid compulsorily by almost all Victorian businesses into consolidated revenue should be criticised. The WorkCover funds should be directed to easing the pain of work-related injuries and not into the government revenue pool.
It could be argued that, as was said in Tweedly’s media release, Victoria is “the safest state in Australia in which to work” and, therefore, there is reducing need for WorkCover funds but it is also acknowledged that the incidence of occupational illnesses is under-reported and that the complex and expensive workplace issues of stress, fatigue and mental illness are not being addressed in an effective manner. WorkCover revenue could easily have been directed to specific preventative strategies on these emerging workplace hazards, in a similar way to how WorkCover funded its WorkHealth campaign.
The decision to redirect funds originating from businesses intended to fund compensation and harm prevention activities and programs reflects the political ideologies of the current Conservative Government in Victoria. Where there was the potential to use a revenue pool in a positive, creative manner within the economic sector that generated that pool, the government chose to remove, or at least limit, that potential.
There is no evidence that this economic decision has any relation to Greg Tweedly’s decision to leave WorkSafe Victoria. It may be that, like many other executives, eight years in the CEO job where there is no chance for promotion is enough. More interest should come from who is chosen as Tweedly’s replacement and any new strategy they implement.