May 24

Important survey: What has the attack on NSW’s Workers Compensation laws meant for you?

UNIONS NSW have created an important survey to help them measure the impact of changes to the NSW Workers Compensation laws on injured workers and their families, we urge injured workers to participate.  Refer below to access the survey link.

________________________________________________________________________________

Do you have a work-related injury or illness or were you injured, travelling to or from work?

Or are you a family member or workmate of someone who has had such an ordeal?

We want to hear from you. Complete this survey and give us insight into your personal experiences of the NSW Workers Compensation system.

As a result of the NSW O’Farrell Government’s changes to Workers Compensation in June 2012 those with workplace injuries and illnesses, and their families, have been dealt a tremendous blow to their rights and entitlements. In most cases, injured and ill workers will have their entitlements reduced, or scrapped altogether.

For more information on the workers compensation changes go to www.nswforall.org.au.

Workers Compensation is one of the most important rights that belong to working people. It was a right that was fought for and won by the union movement and workers. It is meant to ensure that someone who is injured or ill as a result of their work is properly and decently cared for.

The NSW O’Farrell Government’s changes are a direct attack on fair treatment and respect for all workers and their families.

By completing this survey you will help us assess the consequences of the Workers Compensation changes one year after they were introduced. The survey should take between 3 and 10 minutes to complete, depending on your circumstances.

Thank you,

Emma Maiden

Deputy Assistant Secretary

Unions NSW

May 23

Report condemns ‘untouchable’ police officers amid bullying claims

r1119457_13687645Here is a disturbing follow-up of a previous workplace bullying story in the Victorian Police Force (Police bullying police? Ugly culture claims face the Force).

Report condemnsuntouchablepolice officers amid bullying claims

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 22/05/2013

Reporter: Louise Milligan

 

After 7.30’s report on systemic bullying in Victoria Police, more officers have come forward and a Worksafe report describes senior ranks as ‘untouchable’.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: 7.30 has uncovered more evidence of systemic bullying within the Victoria Police. After our story last month, a further 26 police have contacted our program to share their stories. One officer is now dying of cancer, but came forward because before he dies he wants to document the bullying he received from a colleague while he was being treated for his illness. A workplace report obtained by 7.30 has described senior ranks in Victoria Police as untouchable and the most senior officer in charge of investigating bullying as aggressive and contemptuous of complaints against him. Louise Milligan reports.

LOUISE MILLIGAN, REPORTER: Paul Irving has just started 24 weeks of chemotherapy.

The disease that first began to attack his bowel in 2009 has spread to his lungs.

DOCTOR: You can see his abnormal lesions here which are the deposits of the cancer. So they’ve come up in the last three months or so since your last treatment, with some fluid down the bottom of the lung.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: The retired police officer from Ballarat in Central Victoria is trying to keep a positive attitude, but he and his wife acknowledge his prospects are grim.

CLARE IRVING, WIFE: He’s – Paul’s got fourth stage cancer.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Paul Irving contacted 7.30 after we revealed claims by Victoria Police rank and file of widespread bullying and mismanagement. In Irving’s case, the bully, he says, was a colleague at Ballarat Police Station. The pair first fell out over a disagreement at the station shortly before Irving was diagnosed with cancer and went off work for some months.

PAUL IRVING, FMR VICTORIA POLICE SERGEANT: Upon returning to work, you know, I’ve got (bleep) walking past in the corridor, you know, doing intimidating gestures, you know, like slitting of the throat.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Irving made complaints to an inspector at Ballarat. He says the complaints were ignored and the dispute escalated. One afternoon the bully was waiting in the rear carpark of Ballarat Police Station.

PAUL IRVING: And he’s confronted me and it was nose-to-nose basically. I thought, “Oh, here we go. I’m gonna get hit here.” And he said, “You low life rat ‘C’. You know how to wreck a man’s career. You better watch your back.”

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Paul Irving went straight to management.

PAUL IRVING: I said, “Eh, listen, I’ve been confronted, I’ve been assaulted. I thought he was gonna hit me.” They said, “Compile a statement,” which I compiled two statements. And I handed them in and to this day I’ve not heard where it went or what’s happened. Nothing.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Irving says the bullying, intimidation and threats continued. He asked management to help him get an intervention order. They refused.

One evening Irving took a drive to clear his head. He stopped the car in the bully’s street and thought about confronting him, but he decided against it and left. Two days later, he went to a senior sergeant to describe the mental toll the bullying was taking. He mentioned his drive and his thoughts about confronting the bully. That night, the senior sergeant and an inspector arrived on his doorstep.

PAUL IRVING: And they knocked on the door and they come in and said, “Oh, we’re just here for a welfare check.” And then all of a sudden out of the blue he said, “Now the pleasantries are over, here’s a warrant for your arrest.”

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Victoria Police applied for an intervention order which prohibited Irving from going within 200 metres of Ballarat Police Station. It meant he couldn’t go to work. Like many of the 26 police who’ve contacted 7.30 since our story went to air, Irving says police command protected the aggressor, not the victim.

PAUL IRVING: I think they believe they’re above the law. They honestly believe that, “Hey, we are the law,” and that they can do what they like.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Irving fought the application in court. Eventually, VicPol withdrew it and the case was thrown out. After 23 years on the job, Paul Irving was forced to retire.

CLARE IRVING: Um, it’s been awful. It’s been humiliating for the family. Isolating. Paul’s just been so isolated from the police force, from all his work colleagues.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Since he left work last May, Irving says Victoria Police management have not checked on his health and welfare, but one investigator in the ethical standards division wrote this supportive email to Clare Irving: “Please do not consider me to be aligned with any of those who have acted detrimentally towards Paul. I have been scathing of the failings and the inaction of certain managers involved. I was disgusted with the lack of lack of welfare support that Paul had received and I reported this to my own manager.”

In a statement to 7.30, Victoria Police says the dispute involves complaints both by and against Sergeant Irving, but it’s a matter of some regret and sadness compounded by his current health problems.

Clare Irving would like to speak to the Police Commissioner.

CLARE IRVING: I’d like him to come and see what he’s done to us.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: The man in charge of investigating bullying at Victoria Police is Assistant Commissioner Emmett Dunne, the head of professional standards. But Dunne himself has been accused of bullying. His accuser, former inspector Gordon Charteris, spoke to 7.30 last month.

GORDON CHARTERIS, FORMER VICTORIAN POLICE INSPECTOR (April 22): I didn’t go out through any act of dishonesty; I went out for telling the truth.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: A report by the Office of Police Integrity found that there wasn’t enough evidence to uphold bullying allegations against Emmett Dunne, but he had breached force policy in his dealings with Gordon Charteris. That finding was overturned after submissions were made privately by Dunne and former Chief Commissioner Simon Overland. Dunne was exonerated.

Since that story went to air, Gordon Charteris has obtained a WorkSafe report about Emmett Dunne. While a previous Freedom of Information application had been refused, it’s now mysteriously appeared in Charteris’ mailbox. That report is highly critical of Victoria Police. It describes senior ranks as untouchable and says the force has a system of not addressing complaints where senior officers are the respondent. It also criticised Emmett Dunne.

GORDON CHARTERIS: (Reading from report) “Dunne in his interview was difficult to deal with and displayed a degree of contempt that this issue had been raised.”

LOUISE MILLIGAN: The report says the case wasn’t investigated impartially. Witnesses who are serving members have indicated that “Dunne is an aggressive manager”. They said he would constantly interrupt and “place his hand in your face to shut you up”. Members are “less likely to give evidence” in writing as Dunne is Assistant Commissioner for Ethical Standards Division and it has been indicated that “life could become difficult”. The allegations were not thoroughly investigated and there was a “failure to formally address Dunne’s behaviour, … management and style.”

GORDON CHARTERIS: Now, if you take all of the circumstances in its totality, something is very, very smelly with the way my matter’s been handled.

LOUISE MILLIGAN: Late today Emmett Dunne emailed our program saying that he fully and properly complied with all requests made by OPI and WorkSafe and his request of the OPI to review its original decision was lawful and appropriate.

The dozens of police who have contacted 7.30 see this as a systemic problem. As for Paul Irving, he just wants to clear his name before it’s too late.

PAUL IRVING: I belt myself up knowing I’ve done nothing wrong and they’ve trynna strip me of those two morals of my life: honesty, integrity. I belt meself up over that because they try to turn the ball to make you feel that you’ve done something wrong and I know I haven’t.

LEIGH SALES: And Victoria Police say a full review of bullying and workplace conflict across the force is underway and you can read its statement along with one from Assistant Commissioner Emmett Dunne.

May 22

Medical retirement case could open the floodgates for other injured police officers to return to work

939074-glen-robinsonIt appears that this case hinges on whether of not former sergeant Glen Robinson was forced to retire on medical ground or sought voluntary retirement as a result of his injuries.  If Mr Robinson wins the right to be reinstated, it could opens the floodgates for more than 800 officers who got payouts to re-apply for their jobs.

Bad back is no cop out for Glen Robinson

A NSW police officer who received a payout worth hundreds of thousands because of injuries and stress has applied to get his job back because he is feeling better now.

However, the force is refusing to re-employ the former sergeant who was paid out when he left in June 2011.

Within 16 months of getting his money, former sergeant Glen Robinson applied to be reinstated to his old job at Maroubra police station.

He was employed under the old police death and disability scheme often known as “mortgage busters” because hundreds of officers received massive compensation payouts – some over $1 million – to leave the force medically unfit.It was scrapped by the state government last year after a bitter dispute with the NSW Police Association.

If Mr Robinson wins the right to be reinstated, it opens the floodgates for more than 800 officers who got payouts to re-apply for their jobs.

The police have lodged documents opposing Mr Robinson’s reinstatement.

“It is the first application of its kind,” Bruce Hodgkinson SC, representing the police force, told the Industrial Relations Commission yesterday.

“And as such has much significance to police in the same position.”

Commissioner Peter Newall has referred the matter to the president of the IRC to determine what court should hear Mr Robinson’s application.

In papers submitted to the commission, Mr Robinson said he was fit to work and asked to be reinstated “immediately”.

“A medical certificate dated April 5, 2012 stating the applicant was fit for employment was given to the employer (NSW Police) on October 19, 2012. The applicant asked the employer to reinstate him as a general duties team leader, sergeant, working from the eastern suburbs beaches local area command on October 19, 2012, but the employer did not do so.”

After police refused to give him back his job, Mr Robinson applied to the NSW Industrial Relations Commission under section 242 of the Workers Compensation Act.

He claims he was dismissed by the force but they counter that he asked to leave on medical grounds.

“The applicant was medically discharged from the NSW police force, which took effect on June 2, 2011,” documents said.

“The applicant pursued and participated in the process to grant him a medical discharge and received as a consequence of being medically discharged a significant payment to which he would not have been entitled had he been dismissed from the police force.”

Mr Robinson would not discuss the matter outside the tribunal yesterday.

Mr Newall also said a letter written by Mr Robinson to Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione should be made available to the president of the IRC.

No date has been set for when the matter will be heard.

May 22

Owner of Steggles and Lilydale chicken brands faces charges after worker’s decapitation

stegglesOne of Australia’s biggest chicken producers, Baiada Poultry, is facing four charges over the decapitation of a contract worker, Sarel Singh, at its Laverton North factory in 2010.

It is understood charges brought by WorkSafe Victoria include failure to supply a safe system of work and failure to provide information, instruction, training or supervision to workers to allow them to work safely. The privately owned Baiada owns popular brands such as Lilydale Free Range Chickens and Steggles. Mr Singh was not employed directly by Baiada but by a cleaning company, Ecowize Specialised Hygiene, which also faces three charges for similar offences related to Mr Singh’s death.

It is understood an administrative hearing will be held in court on Monday in a case between Baiada employees and WorkSafe as the workers try to stop the regulator from talking to them. Baiada did not respond to requests for comment.

The gruesome death of Mr Singh helped draw attention to working conditions in the poultry industry, and National Union of Workers state secretary Tim Kennedy said conditions were poor
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/owner-of-steggles-and-lilydale-chicken-brands-faces-charges-after-workers-decapitation-20130519-2juvq.html#ixzz2TyPfFq00

May 22

Important survey: What has the attack on NSW’s Workers Compensation laws meant for you?

UNIONS NSW have created an important survey to help them measure the impact of changes to the NSW Workers Compensation laws on injured workers and their families, we urge injured workers to participate.  Refer below to access the survey link.

________________________________________________________________________________

Do you have a work-related injury or illness or were you injured, travelling to or from work?

Or are you a family member or workmate of someone who has had such an ordeal?

We want to hear from you. Complete this survey and give us insight into your personal experiences of the NSW Workers Compensation system.

As a result of the NSW O’Farrell Government’s changes to Workers Compensation in June 2012 those with workplace injuries and illnesses, and their families, have been dealt a tremendous blow to their rights and entitlements. In most cases, injured and ill workers will have their entitlements reduced, or scrapped altogether.

For more information on the workers compensation changes go to www.nswforall.org.au.

Workers Compensation is one of the most important rights that belong to working people. It was a right that was fought for and won by the union movement and workers. It is meant to ensure that someone who is injured or ill as a result of their work is properly and decently cared for.

The NSW O’Farrell Government’s changes are a direct attack on fair treatment and respect for all workers and their families.

By completing this survey you will help us assess the consequences of the Workers Compensation changes one year after they were introduced. The survey should take between 3 and 10 minutes to complete, depending on your circumstances.

Thank you,

Emma Maiden

Deputy Assistant Secretary

Unions NSW

May 21

Mental health in the workplace matters. Here’s why.

Storm front

Is your job driving you to the edge?

James Broughton (not his real name), 37, first acknowledged anxiety, a condition he had lived with for many years, when he began working as a travel agent.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m not good enough to do this [job]’,” he says. “I built up the image of a travel agent and I didn’t think I could do that.”

At just six weeks into the job, Broughton contemplated resigning.

“I’ve never quit a job before,” he says. “I really wanted to keep the job but I knew that if I didn’t talk to somebody about [my anxiety] I was going to quit.”

Fortunately, Broughton was comfortable approaching his team leader. “I said to her, ‘I’m finding this really, really difficult’.

“She said, ‘You have to think about all you’ve learnt in the six weeks you’ve been with us’.”

She also acknowledged that Broughton was worrying about the small things. “She said, ‘The small things are the things that turn into – in your mind – big things, and that’s why you want to leave. Don’t sweat the small stuff’.” Broughton celebrates his seventh anniversary at the company this year.

Despite having a supportive team leader, the past seven years have not been easy for Broughton.

“I get [anxiety] at work all the time,” he says. “I was a manager for a couple of years but it just didn’t work for me … probably because of the anxiety and stuff, I just got stressed out. I wasn’t doing well, the store wasn’t doing well, we were losing money. I thought that because I’m the manager, it starts with me. My stress levels were so bad that I was taking it out on the staff and things like that. I stepped down and became a 2IC, and the same sort of [anxiety issues] happened again.

“When you’re a manager you lead by example and you’re under the microscope, whether you’re assistant manager or a 3IC. Now I’m just a consultant and, financially and personally, the nine months in this role have been my best [at the company].”

I knew if I didn’t talk to somebody, I was going to quit.– James Broughton

Most experts agree that employers have good intentions when it comes to caring for staff, but there’s often a lack of understanding as to how to deal with mental health issues in the workplace.

CEO Kate Carnell of mental health awareness organisation beyondblue recently said that one in three respondents of a national telephone survey wrongly believed it helpful to keep out of the way of someone who is depressed, while one in four wrongly believed that people with severe depression should pull themselves together.

“Seventeen per cent of female and 13 per cent  of male depression is caused by job stress in the workplace,” says beyondblue Workplace & Workforce Program Leader Therese Fitzpatrick.

“I think employers are a lot more aware that they need to do something, but they’re not always sure what they need to do.”

“Some interesting work has been done on the types of workplaces that are more likely to generate mental health problems,” notes Dr Caryl Barnes, a psychiatrist working with The Black Dog Institute, an organisation that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mood disorders.

“[They are] places where there’s a high level of demand but little recognition, little sense of control over what you do. So [jobs with] high expectations and low control.”

In addition, says Barnes, traits such as high levels of perfectionism, or black and white thinking, can “push you well in your career, but [can be] detrimental for mental health and wellbeing” and often mean a greater risk of depression.

For finance professionals, a need for accuracy often comes with the job. “There’s a lot of pressure on those roles,” concedes Fitzpatrick.

“There are some things inherent in jobs that we can’t change,” she adds. “There are those natural stresses that will sit within the accountancy profession, like that need for attention to detail.

“The risks if something is done wrong can be quite high. We can’t necessarily change some of those things, but it’s working out what can you change, how can you give a junior accountant more control over their day-to-day work? Or, how can people ensure that they’re doing what they need to do to look after themselves?”

“Good support from your team leader goes a long way,” Broughton says, acknowledging that without the help of his former team leader he would not still be employed with his company, which is prone to high levels of turnover.

“Our novices drop off every month or two because they don’t get the support they need.”

 Perception is everything

For many, it is the perception of their role that leads to workplace-related mental health issues.

“It’s not so much about the job characteristics,” says Dr Sam Harvey, who leads a program of research on workplace mental health, conducted jointly by the University of NSW and The Black Dog Institute.

“It’s about the employee’s perception of their job, so anything that an employer can do to help shift the employee’s perception of these things [is good].”

Amanda Green, 42, a professional services worker, has been suffering from depression for most of her life. “When I first acknowledged it, I was terrified,” she says.

“I think it’s something I’ve always lived with. In a work capacity, I notice it when things get heavy-going, like ridiculous amounts of work.”

More than 12 years after seeking help, Green has found ways to manage her depression. “I don’t go a day without exercising,” she says.

Companies need to get support networks in place inside the workplace.– Amanda Green

“If I don’t exercise for a day and I start getting flat, I say, ‘Right, get out there now’. I don’t care what it is — a 10-minute run or something — it always helps to stave it off.”

While Green has found a way to manage her illness, she still believes that employers can do more to support staff.

“Employers need to look at their whole social structure,” she says. “People are not islands. I think companies need to get support networks in place inside the workplace, and not just as an add-on.”

And, importantly, Green says, companies need to be sincere about it. If they’re not, she says, it makes people more jaded.

According to beyondblue’s Fitzpatrick, “being valued is important for all of us”.

“Different people value different things,” Fitzpatrick says. “Sometimes it’s as simple as making sure we show employees that we value them that can make a big difference to the mental health of your employees. You need to be genuine about that.”

Green says that feeling worthless makes it harder to cope with her illness in the workplace. “You feel awful and … when you’re in the workplace and people are saying, ‘you need to do this, you need to do that’ you think, ‘I’m worthless, so obviously it’s my problem and not theirs’.  [Having depression is] not something you can share.”

Dr Barnes suggests that getting people together can often lead to a more mentally healthy, and therefore productive, workforce.

“The things you do to get people together as a team, whether it’s a physical challenge, a walk — all those things are good for your mental health and for working together and understanding each other.”

“Not everyone’s going to have the time and inclination to get involved in out-of-work activities,” Barnes continues. “But certainly if you make a variety of things available through the workplace – in work time and out of work time – then you’re hopefully going to touch all of your employees.”

While Green is open about her condition, she has not told her employer.

“What are they going to do about it?” she asks. She admits that opening up to colleagues is a daunting prospect. “It’s scary,” she says. “It’s terrifying and I can’t tell you why.”

However, as Fitzpatrick says, not all individuals need to feel compelled to tell their employers.

“It’s important to remember that depression is not always going to impact on your work, and if it doesn’t impact on your work then it’s not necessary to share that with your employer,” she says.

But for the other portion of the population that feels the effects of mental health in the workplace, it might be to the employer’s benefit to create a psychologically friendly workplace.

“It just makes business sense for there to be a culture where people can seek help,” Dr Harvey says.

 How can work help?

While some employers are quick to hand out personal time for employees suffering from mental health issues, for many, staying at work is the best thing for their mental well-being.

“Work is important, particularly when it comes to things like depression and anxiety,” says Communicorp managing director David Burroughs. “We get a sense of self-worth and satisfaction from the work we do.”

“I think the traditional notion was that if somebody put up their hand and said they were unwell, the employer felt they were doing the right thing by saying, ‘Go home and rest, and don’t worry about contacting us until you’re feeling well again’,” says Harvey.

“Often that was motivated by good intentions, but we know that in a lot of cases that’s not helpful, but even harmful … helping people to remain active and functional and engaged with the workplace is a really good thing and, in many cases, allows people to recover a lot faster.

“Work has so many positive elements to it, but only if you have the managers that can guide you through that process, that know how to support you.”

It’s also essential that managers offer their employees the support they need, treating each employee on a case-by-case basis and adjusting accordingly.

In Europe, some countries have developed “fit notes” which, according to Harvey, involves doctors writing partial sick notes to enable people suffering from a mental illness to return to work. “The idea behind this is that the kind of false divide between somebody being sick and not being able to work and being 100 per cent well is broken down,” says Harvey.

“So rather than saying, ‘This person isn’t able to work for the next three weeks,’ doctors say, ‘This person is suffering from an illness and here are the things I think they could do in the next three weeks, and here are the things they can’t do’.”

The initiative is still being evaluated but, according to Harvey, early signs suggest it’s helpful.

What can business do?

The answer is: training, training, training. The general consensus among mental health professionals is that education is lacking in many businesses – and for accountants the numbers aren’t favourable.

According to beyondblue and Beaton Research’s 2011 Business and Professions Study, “Accountants were the least likely to have undertaken training in dealing with mental illness in the workplace”.

This at a time when 3.2 million Australians experience stress or anxiety as a result of their working arrangements.

“All organisations have a responsibility to identify and mitigate known and suspected risk in the workplace,” says Communicorp’s Burroughs. “That’s not just the physical, that’s the psychosocial risks as well.”

“There needs to be a lot more work-based training around mental health issues and how to respond to them,” says SANE Australia CEO Jack Heath.

“We know that mid-level managers generally care about their workforce and the people they are supervising, but … they say, ‘I’d like to help someone, but I don’t want to make things worse.’ And so in the absence of having any confidence or skills to deal with a particular issue, they step back.

“So you get a situation where at the very time when engaging with a person could actually help the situation [managers] drop back, performance drops off, they end up often performance managing the person out of the organisation. Then you’ve got all the costs that are involved in terms of recruiting someone new. The thing is that [education] does not require huge expenditures. “

According to Dr Barnes, a psychiatrist at The Black Dog Institute, the average Australian workplace scores very high on avoidance. “We tend to not be that good at even asking ‘how are you doing’ on a casual basis. When it comes to actually talking about how you feel when you’re doing really badly, that probably makes it worse.”

Having a conversation can be one of the best things a manager can do when dealing with a potential mental health issue in the workplace.

“If you notice [someone is] not themselves, or they’re missing deadlines, or there’s something going on, think about how you start a conversation with them,” says Fitzpatrick.

“It may or may not mean that there is a mental health problem, but if there is stuff going on in people’s lives, if managers have a clearer idea, they can figure out how they’re going to manage these things in the short-term.”

“I’m amazed at the number of times I hear people say they’ve not had any support or training in having difficult conversations or even training how to do performance management, let alone basic reviews,” Barnes says.

So how do you go about having that difficult conversation? According to Barnes it’s important to keep to the facts as well as carefully plan your approach.

“It has been shown that if you really want to have a conversation about a difficult topic it’s probably good not to give too much advance warning that you’re going to do that, so maybe 20 minutes or half an hour … if someone has been left [to think about it] too long there’s a lot of stress and anxiety that can build over those conversations.”

The next step is to make sure you choose a private space to talk. “There are classic examples of people trying to have these conversations in corridors or in a team meeting or a coffee place. It’s just so inappropriate and that’s going to get people defensive and embarrassed.”

Of course, not every manager is going to have the skills to have these conversations. That’s where the training comes in. According to Heath, “[training] is something that can be done relatively easily.”

“We need to see a lot more workplace programs … educating people around mental health issues. One of the most powerful ways to reduce stigma is to have someone with experience of mental illness share their story, ideally face to face.”

SANE Australia, beyondblue, The Black Dog Institute and Communicorp all offer courses for managers to develop their conversational skills, as well as educational programs that can assist business as a whole.

In addition, industry bodies such as the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and The Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) have formed partnerships with mental health organisations to promote mental health awareness among employers.

“The most important thing is to raise awareness of mental health issues, and to encourage more people to act when they see the warning signs,” said AWU National Secretary Paul Howes.

“The AWU will also be incorporating mental health components into our Delegates’ Training courses, so that Delegates know what to look out for when they are discussing work issues with Union members.”

It is important, says Burroughs, that employers do not restrict their mental health education to anxiety and depression. “You risk ostracising people in the workplace if you omit a whole range of mental health issues that could be affecting an individual,” he says.

Burroughs suggests employers ask themselves the following questions:

•    Do we have a mental health policy?

•    Do our managers have access to the resources that will help them make reasonable adjustments to the workplace?

•    Do managers understand what’s required in order to manage staff with different types of concerns?

What can individuals do?

Employers are not the only ones who are responsible for workplace mental health. There are measures that individuals can take, says Fitzpatrick.

“A lot of that is [making] sure we’re keeping ourselves physically healthy: making sure we’re eating right, we’re sleeping, we’re exercising, not drinking too much. All of those things are really positive for our mental health.”

It can also be beneficial to think about what you can do in your daily work life to reduce your pressures. Fitzpatrick suggests thinking about the hours you work, how you can manage the way you undertake your work and making sure you take breaks.

“Some of those things are the responsibility of the individual and some of it is the responsibility of the organisation,” she says. “Everybody needs to play a role to start to make a difference.”

If you’re experiencing mental health issues, contact: Lifeline on 131 114; beyondblue on 1300 224 636 or SANE Australia on 1800 18 SANE (7263).

May 21

Special May IWSN Meeting: Hosted by UNIONS NSW in Parramatta

IWSNThis month and over the coming months will focus on addressing and challenging changes to workers compensation laws and the negative impact they are having on injured workers and their families.  Please feel free to invite friends, family members and other interested community members who may be able to assist us moving forward

There are a number of initiatives we would like to discuss that will forward our aim of highlighting the adverse impact changes are having on injured workers and their families.

Agenda

  • Discuss recent changes to workers compensation
  • Injured workers stories (methods of communicating real stories from real people)
  • Community based activities

Important note: Please RSVP me on  (02) 9749 7566

Also feel free to contact me for further details

Region: Sydney

Location: UNIONS NSW, Level 4, 20 Wentworth Street, Parramatta

Date of next meeting:  Wednesday, 29 May, 2013

Time: 2-4 PM

May 21

NSW Legislative Council -Workplace bullying speech by The Hon. Peter Primrose

Workplace bullyingWe sincerely appreciate the seriousness in which this issue is being taken by certain politicians.  Our sincere thanks to The Hon. Peter Primrose who took the time to discuss at length our concerns for the many people suffering as a result of workplace bullying

NSW Legislative Council -Workplace bullying speech

The Hon. PETER PRIMROSE [4.03 p.m.]: On Monday 26 November last year, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment tabled its report on its inquiry into workplace bullying, entitled “Workplace bullying: We just want it to stop”.

Workplace bullying is a dynamic and complex phenomenon. Its causes are often multifaceted and its impact can be individual and varied. It can have a profound effect on all aspects of a person’s health as well as their work and family life, which can undermine their self-esteem, productivity and morale. For some, it can result in permanent departure from the labour market and, in extreme cases, suicide. Bullying behaviours can range from subtle actions that seek to exclude, isolate or marginalise to extreme acts of physical violence resulting in death or serious injury.

The report looked at this issue issues in great detail and took an extensive number of submissions. I do not have the opportunity to run through them all, but I will mention some of the comments that were made in the report:

According to Davidson Trahaire Corpsych [DTC], a leading organisational psychology consulting firm, the most common form of workplace bullying is verbal abuse: shouting, swearing, malicious sarcasm, intimidating behaviours and undeserved evaluations.

Bullying can also manifest in more predatory activities. In a case that gained national attention in 2006, Brodie Panlock, a 19-year-old waitress, tragically took her own life after enduring persistent and vicious bullying at work. Evidence raised in the resulting court case revealed that Brodie had been the subject of continual physical and emotional abuse. In one of the more horrific incidents, Brodie was physically restrained whilst her manager, and cafe owner, poured oil all over her.

Bullying may manifest in different ways according to the nature of certain industries. For example, “initiation ceremonies” are more likely to occur in certain sectors or amongst workers work of a certain age. A recent case in a New South Wales was successfully prosecuted after five workers wrapped a 16-year-old asthmatic apprentice labourer in cling wrap. These workers then forced sawdust into his mouth as part of an “induction” into the workplace.

Bullying, particularly in the workplace, has been described as a “hidden problem”. The prevalence of workplace bullying in Australia cannot be determined with any precision due to the absence of a national evidence base from which such indicators might be drawn.

Most of the material relating to the evidence and estimates comes from the Australian Workplace Barometer project in 2009-11:

The AWB project found that 6.8 per cent of Australian workers had been bullied at work in the six months prior to being surveyed, with 3.5 per cent experiencing bullying for longer than a six month period.

However, the prevalence of workplace bullying could be far greater than this statistic. The Assistant Commissioner of the Productivity Commission stated that: It is probably higher than that … it could be over 15 per cent.

Professor Maryam Omari commented further:

What we are not capturing in whatever studies are done the actual rates of workplace bullying, which would be far higher than the 22 to 33 per cent that I have found.

The cost of bullying is incredibly high and not only to individuals. The Productivity Commission estimated the cost to be between $6 billion and $36 billion every year. A lot more can and needs to be said about bullying. The inaugural State of the NSW Public Sector Report, which was released last year, found that one in two public servants has witnessed bullying in the workplace. Workplace bullying is a real and serious problem for all of us.

I particularly refer to the good work that is being done by Mr John McPhilbin at the Injured Workers Support Network. His advice on this matter can be obtained at injuredworkerssupport.org.au

May 20

Ruling: Unfairly sacked after making bullying allegations

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How many employees are unfairly sacked after making bullying allegations? In our experience, far too many.

RMIT professor unfairly sacked

Employers have been warned against using redundancy programs to get rid of ”undesired employees”, after RMIT University was fined $37,000 by the Federal Court for breaking workplace laws, and ordered to re-hire one of its professors.

RMIT sacked youth studies and sociology professor Judith Bessant last April, claiming the redundancy was for financial reasons alone.

But in a decision handed down last week, Justice Peter Gray found the university had likely fired Professor Bessant after she made allegations of bullying and intimidation against another professor, David Hayward.

Justice Gray said his ruling would vindicate Professor Bessant’s decision to make a complaint against Professor Hayward without suffering retribution.

Professor Bessant was made redundant despite the university having acknowledged that she was a ”very good researcher”, a scholar ”of international standing” and ”an impressive teacher”.

In deciding the case, Justice Gray also said he took into consideration the ”apparent determination” by RMIT Vice-Chancellor Margaret Gardner to ”ignore her knowledge of Professor Hayward’s animosity towards Professor Bessant”. Professor Gardner displayed a lack of contrition for what the court found to be a blatant contravention of workplace laws.

The National Tertiary Education Union said the ruling was a warning that all employers must not use ”sham redundancies” to get rid of staff, when the real reasons would not be allowed by the Fair Work Act. Victorian secretary Colin Long said the judgment provided a telling insight into the management culture at Australian universities.

”The approach taken by the [RMIT] to getting rid of [Professor Bessant] will be all too familiar to university staff across Australia,” he said.

Dr Long said the decision also reflected the ”group-think” prevalent in Australian university managements, aimed at silencing dissenters and backing bad decisions.

Justice Gray found that, if Professor Bessant had sought damages against the university rather than asking for her job back, she would have got ”significantly in excess of $1 million” and potentially up to $1.9 million.

Professor Bessant said she was relieved the matter was resolved, and that the judgment vindicated her position.

”Namely that academics have both a right and an obligation to speak out about the concerns they have about the way social institutions are working,” she said.

RMIT’s chief operating officer Steve Somogyi said the university was reviewing the judgment and would consider an appeal. “The university takes very seriously its obligations under the Fair Work Act,” he said.

May 20

Widow fights to protect paramedic families

Widow fights to protect paramedic families

The wife of a paramedic who died rescuing an injured canyoner on Christmas Eve in 2011 is campaigning to make it easier for people in her husband’s job to get income protection and life insurance.

Michael Wilson, a special rescue paramedic, was 42 when he died after slamming into a cliff wall at Carrington Falls near Wollongong while suspended from a helicopter. He left a wife and three children behind. A safety investigation into the accident is due to report its findings on Thursday. The death is also the subject of a coronial inquiry.

His wife, Kellie Wilson, and the NSW Health Services Union are separately lobbying the NSW government to ensure that other families are not left in a financially difficult position after a similar death. The union says that while life insurance and income protection is readily available to paramedics, it is either not offered by some insurance companies or prohibitively expensive for special rescue paramedics such as Mr Wilson, whose work involved being suspended from a helicopter.

-Michael Wilson’s wife Kellie and children Grace, Hugo and Eliza. Photo: Jane Dyson

”We are launching a campaign in the industrial courts in the hope of achieving for our members parity with other workers on a helicopter in having income protection and life insurance as part of their working conditions,” said Gerard Hayes, NSW secretary of the Health Services Union.

In a statement, Mrs Wilson said she and her three children, Eliza, 16, Grace, 13, and Hugo, 7, miss their father every day.

”Michael’s commitment to his role together with his skills and expertise led to countless rescues,” Mrs Wilson said.

”Thanks to the expertise of our State’s SCAT [Special Casualty Access Team] paramedics and their ability to undertake rescues in such variable conditions, countless lives have and continue to be saved. My priority remains on caring for my family and ensuring that every effort is made to ensure an accident like Michael’s never happens again.”

A spokeswoman for Finance and Services Minister Greg Pearce said he met Mrs Wilson. ”The minister told Mrs Wilson he would look into the issue of income protection and insurance for paramedics to see if changes were needed,” she said. A spokesman for the NSW Ambulance Service said paramedics had access to a death and disability scheme similar to schemes for police and fire officers.

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