The Melbourne public hearing in support of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying has concluded after over an hour of personal impact statements that were confronting, saddening but, overall, defiant.
The hearing began more sedately and predictable. The employers’ association, ACCI, says that workplace bullying is a broad social issue that needs broad social control measure. In rough translation, “it’s not our problem”. The employers also see everything in terms of industrial relations so prevention of harm rarely features in recommendations.
The ACTU stressed that workplace bullying IS a workplace issue and therefore should be principally “managed” under occupational health and safety laws. They also say that health and safety representatives (HSR) are crucial to controlling bullying but were trapped into admitting that they had not introduced specific workplace bullying information, that they recommended, in the HSR training they provide.
The Law Institute of Victoria representative, Moira Rayner, was the stand-out performer. Her background as an Equal Opportunity Commissioner twenty years ago provided her with an authority that was only enhanced when she discussed her personal experience of being accused of bullying.
Eric Windholz, ex-WorkSafe Victoria executive, had potential as he drew from the research he has undertaken with Monash University but conversation bogged down as the role of workers’ compensation premiums emerged.
The weakest performances so far have come from OHS and workplace psychology consultants. To some extent these are front-line troops in the fight against workplace bullying but it is clear that they are trying their best without regulatory and organisational reform. The unfamiliarity with Parliamentary public hearings was revealed by one speaker who started off with thanks to her colleagues which sounded like an advertisement to most.
A major deficiency in this public hearing, and it is believed, the Sydney hearing on 10 July 2012, was the absence of the speakers’ submissions. The delay in making them available is understandable but, nevertheless, observers were at a distinct disadvantage.
Over the next few days SafetyAtWorkBlog will be publishing a number of bullying-related articles on
- workplace mental health,
- opportunism; and
- comfortable chairs.
Well, not the last point but the chairs in Victoria’s Parliament House were comfy.