Mobbing

Bullying claims against WorkCover NSW

The Public Service Association will begin gathering evidence in a bid to prosecute WorkCover NSW, after years of allegations of a bullying culture within the organisation.

A meeting of six PSA delegates voted on Monday to consider pursuing the legal action, after the NSW Industrial Relations Commission found that WorkCover – the state government body entrusted to protect employees from harassment – had bullied a senior employee out of his job.

The potential action, for breaching the NSW Work Health and Safety Act, would be a legal rarity because NSW is the only state where unions have the right to prosecute workplace safety matters.

Jann Jeffries, an industrial officer at the union that represents more than 43,000 employees in roles across NSW Government departments, state-owned corporations, schools and universities, said the motion was endorsed unanimously.

“Now we will consider what evidence we have for a prosecution against WorkCover and what can be done to ensure integrity is being placed on current investigation,” she said.

In a scathing finding last month, the deputy president of the IRC, Rod Harrison, said the manner in which WorkCover conducted its investigation into senior employee Wayne Butler was “shabby and disgraceful” and had the “characterisation of institutional bullying.”

Mr Butler, who was sacked by WorkCover in November following an investigation into alleged misconduct, was handed his job back after the IRC found the allegations could not be substantiated.

Following Mr Harrison’s ruling, the NSW government last week supported a parliamentary inquiry into WorkCover over ongoing internal bullying.

Ms Jeffries said the the IRC decision in the Butler case was “very damning of WorkCover.”

The PSA delegates also called on NSW finance minister Greg Pearce to suspend all of WorkCover’s misconduct investigations until the parliamentary inquiry was completed.

“Our delegates are concerned about the integrity of some of the existing investigations underway by WorkCover. No doubt some of the investigations are about bullying,” she said.

“We will be asking how many they have going and what stage they are at.”

The process of gathering evidence to demonstrate that bullying had occurred was a lengthy process that could take months, said Ms Jeffries.

“This is a big thing to do and it’s not done lightly.”

A spokesperson for WorkCover said the organisation had not “been formally notified” of the potential action.

“We will act on it when we receive information from the union.”