OHS consultation through social media – the new (and better) way

For a little while employers, government and trade unions in Australia were spreading their consultative pool on occupational health and safety (OHS) matters.  Recently that triumvirate seems to have returned to a more exclusive structure.  The reason is unclear but the situation is a backward step and one that fails to take advantage of the modern consultative technologies.

In some ways OHS in Australia seems to be moribund. Professional associations do not seem to be growing even in a time of regulatory change.  Trade union membership numbers seem to have bottomed out without much diminution of their political influence. It may be time to look at a new consultative approach that builds ownership of workplace safety on the back of the awareness marketing by the OHS regulators.  However to do so may mean that the tripartite structure be dissolved over time and that the policy development expectations of government on OHS matters be substantially revised. Continue reading “OHS consultation through social media – the new (and better) way”

No code of practice for workplace bullying but hope remains

Ha01-037As the 1 January 2014 implementation date for new workplace bullying processes approaches there is an increasing amount of legal, HR, and safety seminars, and newsletters and alerts being produced.  Most reiterate the amendments to Australia’s Fair Work Act but occasionally there is additional information.

In a recent seminar, it was suggested that the draft Code of Practice for the Prevention and Management of Workplace Bullying, developed by Safe Work Australia, is to be released as a guidance note rather than a Code of Practice (see below).  Continue reading “No code of practice for workplace bullying but hope remains”

OHS as an industrial relations tool

Recently Queensland’s Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie has been asserting that a review of union right-of-entry provisions is needed because unions have been using occupational health and safety (OHS) issues as an excuse for industrial relations (IR) action.  Such assertions have been made for decades in Australia to the extent they have become fact.  Below is an article looking at one of the sources of the Attorney-General’s assertions.

In a media statement dated 5 October 2013, Bleijie stated:

“For too long, we have seen construction unions using safety as an industrial weapon in this State… Quite frankly, their abuses of the current right of entry provisions are designed to bully contractors until they get their way. Sites are being hijacked and workers held to ransom.

“I have personally heard of stories from hard working Queenslanders who have been locked out of their workplace because of militant union activity.

“Earlier this year, a major contractor lost 42 days of work due to illegal strike activity in the first year of their enterprise agreement. This practice will end.”

Some of this statement was quoted in a Sunday Mail article on 6 October 2013 following the minister’s speech at an awards ceremony with the Master Builders. Like most political media statements there is a large amount of hyperbole but this article’s focus will be on the OHS elements of the statement.  Continue reading “OHS as an industrial relations tool”

New political challenges for OHS in Australia

This weekend the Australian people voted for the conservative Liberal Party to be the next Federal government.   Workplace safety has been largely absent from the pre-election campaign but when it has been mentioned it has almost always been couched in terms of productivity.  In the next few years, workplace safety issues must be couched in terms of productivity to have any hope of gaining the ear of the new government and, particularly, the ear of Senator Eric Abetz, the most likely candidate for the ministry of workplace relations.

Workplace Bullying

Recent changes to workplace bullying laws which provide a prominent role of the Fair Work Commission are unlikely to be rolled back but Abetz has promised Continue reading “New political challenges for OHS in Australia”

CSIRO bullying case shows the complexity of the issue for all of us

For some time the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has been plagued with accusations of bullying and harassment.   A researcher began court action in 2011.  An anonymous website “Victims of CSIRO” was established in 2012 and provides a timeline of disgruntlement for back as far as 2002.  In May 2012, Liberal politician Sophie Mirabella, raised the issue of bullying in criticism of the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.  In July 2012, Comcare issued an Improvement Notice to CSIRO following an investigation

”thoroughly reviewing the workplace systems relating to the prevention and management of bullying behaviour at CSIRO”.

In September 2012, CSIRO whistleblowers spoke of bullying. The CSIRO Staff Association reported anecdotal evidence of increased bullying and harassment in late 2012.

In August 2013 HWL Ebsworth released the independent report  (the Pearce report) which, according to the CSIRO, found

“no major or widespread issues with unreasonable behaviour or bullying in CSIRO”.

How does that work? Continue reading “CSIRO bullying case shows the complexity of the issue for all of us”

UnionsWA looking for the WHS pot of gold

Recently WorkSafeWA released its annual workplace safety performance data. One of the most dramatic findings of the report was that

“Work fatalities average one death every 21 days…”

UnionsWA has used this finding to criticise the West Australian government for not signing up to the model Work Health and Safety laws. There is a logic jump that needs serious questioning.

Continue reading “UnionsWA looking for the WHS pot of gold”

New Zealand railways, red tape, politics and workplace deaths

cover of NZ RailOn 28 April 2013, New Zealand lawyer, Hazel Armstrong, published a 48-page book on how workplace fatalities and the management of the NZ rail industry has been related to politics and economics.

This is an ideological position more than anything else and the evidence is thin in much of this short book but there is considerable power in the description of the manipulation of occupational health and safety regulations and oversight during the political privatisation of the NZ rail sector.  Many countries have privatised previously nationalised, or government-owned, enterprises usually on the argument of productivity and efficiency increases.  Armstrong argues that these arguments were used to justify breaking the trade union dominance of the rail industry. Continue reading “New Zealand railways, red tape, politics and workplace deaths”

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