On 18 October 2011, there was a brief discussion on workplace bullying in the ACT Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). The question to Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, stemmed, ostensibly, from a recent WorkSafe ACT assessment of Canberra restaurants and food retailers. The assessment identified that:
“… only 66 per cent of food outlets were compliant with workplace bullying regulations.”
Such a statement needs considerable explanation to be of use in safety management but it led to a further question from Greens MP Meredith Hunter, one which indicates the confused status of workplace bullying control options.
“Minister, what consideration has the ACT government given to bullying as a ground for discrimination under the ACT’s Discrimination Act, which would give complainants and respondents to bullying complaints access to the Human Rights Commission’s investigation and conciliation functions and clear remedies for victimisation of a person making a complaint?”
It is unreasonable to expect that a Code of Practice on workplace bullying drafted under OHS laws would have the capacity to control the hazard, or provide sufficient guidance, when there are other avenues for restitution that are far more involved, such as discrimination and human rights commissions and tribunals. More…
Further to yesterday’s blog post that mentioned Australia’s Minister for Workplace Relations, Chris Evans, it is worth noting his new media release (not yet available online) in support of the 2011 Safe Work Australia Week.
On 23 October 2011, Minister Evans said all the “right” things:
“National Safe Work Australia Week, an annual initiative of Safe Work Australia, is an opportunity for all Australians to think about how to improve work health and safety in their workplace and in their community,” Senator Evans said. “Each and every worker deserves to go to work each day and return home safely each night.”
Senator Evans said workers deserve the same decent safety standards across Australia.
“This is why the Gillard Government is committed to harmonising Occupational Health and Safety laws by January 2012,” Senator Evans said. “The new laws will cut red tape and ensure that all workers have equal protections regardless of where they live and work. They will apply not only to employees, but also to contractors and their employees, subcontractors, labour hire workers, apprentices and volunteers. These reforms are vitally important for the safety of employees in an increasingly mobile labour force.”
Significantly, the continued refusals by Western Australia and Victoria to implement the OHS reforms prior to 1 January 2011 are not mentioned but it is understandable for the Minister to try to set the positive tone of Safe Work Australia Week.
On 21 October 2011, the Chair of Safe Work Australia, Tom Phillips, fails to mention OHS harmonisation in his media release which is his prerogative but it would have been better to address the elephant in the room – OHS harmonisation.
The harmonisation deadline is only a couple of months away and it would have been good to see some urgency on the issue from this prominent speakers.
Last week, WorkSafe Victoria held its 2011 Work Safe Awards night. The host was Shane Jacobson, probably most well-known for his film Kenny. SafetyAtWorkBlog has been informed that WorkSafe’s Executive Director, Ian Forsythe, was approached by an attendee on the evening complaining about the inappropriateness of some of Jacobs0n’s jokes and comments.
WorkSafe Victoria has been contacted for clarification of this complaint but as an attendee oneself, there were several times that laughter was subdued and eyebrows raised, particularly with one dubious homosexual reference and a joke about wives and guns.
A further, more general, concern was expressed to SafetyAtWorkBlog on the night about the awarding of one award to a person who is contracted by WorkSafe to promote OHS in rural areas. The concern raises the issue again about the benefits of having a transparent judging criteria, or judging process, for safety awards. More…
A SafetyAtWorkBlog article from last week said that Victoria’s Work Safe Week started flat and that speakers at some events were unsure of the future of OHS laws due to Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips‘ unprecedented call to the Federal Government for a 12-month delay.
A spokesperson for the Federal Minister for Industrial Relations, Chris Evans, has told SafetyAtWorkBlog that Victoria is risking $A50 million of federal government funding if it does not implement OHS reforms:
“….the Victorian Government has already factored in around $50 million in reward payments for the 2011-12 budget forward estimates. These reward payments are dependent on Victoria implementing agreed reforms in accordance with key milestones. This includes OHS reform.”
This economic reality is perhaps behind Rich-Phillips’ continuing emphasis that the Victorian Government continues to support the “principle” of harmonisation.
At the 2011 Work Safe Awards on 19 October 2011, Minister Rich-Phillips seemed to identify a strategy that is contrary to the application of that principle. More…
WorkSafe Victoria “launched” its Work Safe Week on 17 October 2011 with a lacklustre seminar about the future of OHS in Victoria but the quiet tone reflected the peculiar approach to OHS law reform taken by the government. Disappointingly the Victorian Minister responsible for WorkSafe, Gordon Rich-Phillips, failed to use Work Safe Week as an opportunity to introduce himself to the State’s safety professionals. His profile is almost non-existent other than his recent media release calling for a 12-month delay to OHS harmonisation, a decision that is likely to do more harm to OHS in Victoria than good. Perhaps he is waiting to appear at the upcoming WorkSafe Awards dinner.
WorkSafe’s first speaker, Lisa Sturzenegger, provided the, now expected, summary of WorkSafe Victoria marketing statistics and stakeholder perception surveys that we became so familiar with from John Merritt’s tenure as Executive Director, but without the spark. The message was that Victoria is leading the country in low workers’ compensation premiums and injury rates. Sturzenegger did continue to tell us what WorkSafe intends to do for the next 12 months but without new legislation, the message was “business as usual”, and the other States will be applying a harmonised OHS enforcement policy, anyway. More…