Further to my post on public service workloads, the Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner, author of the 2003 book on work/life balance, has stated on television (if you get through the fuel price discussion) that
“There’s always going to be some disgruntled people in a large organisation,” he said. “Whether there’s truth in what they say, who knows. You just don’t know. But I believe that things will settle down to a degree. We’ve got a big agenda, we expect a lot of ourselves, we expect a lot of people working with us but it’s for the betterment of the nation, it’s for getting better outcomes for Australia.”
The challenge facing the government at the moment is that it is confusing productivity with hours of work. And I don’t accept that there is a difference between those who work in the civil service and those in private companies in terms of the health and safety risks associated with hours of work.
In today’s The Australian newspaper, John McDonnell, a public policy consultant, mentions the inconsistency in the government’s approach in passing. He says
“leaving aside the inconsistency between the Government’s view of work-life balance for the public service as opposed to that for the rest of the community…”
Lindsay Tanner has written about work-life balance yet is not prepared to apply his knowledge to the industry he works in. His comments above, and similar ones from his colleagues, are the first time that I have heard patriotism used in relation to workload. I wonder when the public service workers compensation claims begin to appear for stress-related disorders and depression, whether they will be rejected on the basis of “working for the betterment of the nation”.
The first issues paper on OHS law reform on a national basis in Australia is now available on line at http://www.nationalohsreview.gov.au/ohs/PublicSubmissions/
Analysis and comment will be provided over the next few weeks. Please feel free to establish discussions on any elements of the review by commenting at SafetyAtWorkBlog.
At the moment in Australia there are political statements and arguments about the substantially increased workload that the newly-appointed Labor Government is placing on public servants. There are accusations that leaks have occurred from the public service as a protest to the long working hours that the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, expects. Working hours that, it should be said,…
Workplace safety usually gets little attention from mainstream press. Until recently, with the growth of online specialist content, trade publications covered OHS events, but the lead time made the news events of historical interest more than something that generated enthusiasm or outrage.
Last weekend the Australian Labor Party in Victoria held its annual conference in Melbourne. The Premier, John Brumby, stated that workplace safety was of continuing high concern to his government. This comment was reported nowhere other than the Sunday night (25 May 2008 ) news bulletin of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
The ABC news website has mentioned other comments that the Premier made at the conference:
“It’s vital for workers and for occupational health and safety representatives that they can raise safety issues without suffering recrimination or discrimination,” he said. “Because if people can’t speak up, then people’s lives can be put at risk.”
The comment is very welcome but why make such a statement now? Has an OHS whistleblowing incident happened recently? No. Has the issue been a sore political point? No.
Given that neither the ALP or the Premier’s office has released the Premier’s speech almost a week after the event, it can only be assumed that the comments were intended for the union audience at the conference and were said, mainly, to have something to say.
His comments are a reiteration of party policy and any support for OHS is welcome but if anyone makes a positive comment on workplace safety, let them be loud and proud about it. The OHS profession and worker safety needs the profile.
Over the last few months, the national OHS review panel of Robin Stewart-Crompton, Barry Sherriff and Stephanie Mayman have met with OHS authorities in all the state jurisdictions, various union representatives, and, interestingly, many of the Courts. The panel also attended the recent ACTU conference.
The issues paper for the review will be released on 30 May 2008, the deadline agreed to in the initial review timetable.
The public comment phase will run to 11 July 2008. No public hearings are scheduled. This is disappointing as OHS experts have pointed out that OHS law is probably the only piece of law that workers and managers can readily understand and apply without firstly undertaking a law degree. This means that there are a lot of “bush lawyers” in OHS in Australia but this also means that there is a greater pool of informed opinion to draw from.
Many OHS professionals and practitioners have a better understanding of the application of this law and should be given an opportunity to address the panel in a public forum, if for no better reason than it is the best use of their valuable time. Not everyone who should be heard can devote the necessary time to writing 5,000 word submissions, nor do they have the luxury of being able to charge top dollar on hourly rates for someone else to cover their time.