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Issue No. 145 19 July 2002  

Two Wings Flapping
The one element missing from the current debate about the relationship between the labour movement and the ALP is any discussion about what's in it for the unions.


Interview: In The Tent
The Australian Services Union's Martin Foley on the dilemma facing trade unions affiliated to the Labor Party.

Bad Boss: The Desk Nazi
Everyone�s mail is on the money this week. Yep, Australia Post, courtesy of the born-to-rule attitude so beloved by the Workplace Relations Minister has been nominated for the Tony Award.

Media: Hold the Presses
The withdrawal of mainstream news outlets from the reporting of industrial relations is playing right into the bosses' hands, writes Andrew Casey

Workplace: Putting Bullies In Their Place
Ever wonder where the schoolyard bullies from your formative years ended up? Chances are they are still making someone�s life hell in an Australian workplace today. Even worse, one of them might be your direct supervisor.

Industrial: Women and Work
The last fortnight may well prove a turning point for working Australian women and their families, argues ACTU President Sharan Burrow

International: Whine and Dine
The political and industrial wings of British labour are at each other's throats, reports Andrew Casey.

History: Black Adder
Old King Cole had good tutors. Roger Milliss captured the style of conservative government witch-hunts in Serpent�s Tooth, his cathartic apology to his father, Bruce.

Review: Bad Movie
While the search for Australia's worst boss is well underway, Joel Schumacher's Bad Company seems to point the finger squarely at the US Government - albeit accidentally.

Poetry: I Remember
Dermott Ryder knocks our Resident Bard off his podium this week with a little ditty about a bloke called Honest John


 Builder Blows Whistle on Kangaroo Court

 Alarm Over Unis in Detention

 Unions Spark New Super Push

 Abbott Trips on Entitlements - Again

 Picnic Day for Union Members Only

 Memo: John Travolta - Come Fly With Us!

 Cole Comfort to Bodgey Builders

 Unions Eye SA Casuals Victory

 Burrow: Paid Mat Leave Just First Step

 Mayne Warning � But Will They Listen?

 Drought Relief Should Extend To Rural Workers

 Coca Cola Action Bubbles Globally


The Soapbox
The Royal Circus
CFMEU organiser Terry Kesby gives a first hand account of his experience before the Cole Royal Commission.

The Locker Room
Bravely Running Away
Phil Doyle is bewildered by the Australian Cricket team�s reluctance to join John Howard�s War On Terror.

Nothing Exceeds Like Excess
As the world market lurches under the weight of its own amorality, regulators and business lobbies are locking horns over the need for more rules.

Week in Review
A Share of the Action
Sharemarket jitters produce mea culpas from the magnate set but, as Jim Marr discovers, loyal followers in the Howard administration aren�t likely to join the chorus any time soon.

 Make My Week!
 Real Reform
 Hooray for Frank!
 Reform or Die
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Putting Bullies In Their Place

By Tara de Boehmler

Ever wonder where the schoolyard bullies from your formative years ended up? Chances are they are still making someone�s life hell in an Australian workplace today. Even worse, one of them might be your direct supervisor.

These days between 25% and 50% of workers are likely to experience bullying at some time during their career - a situation that has prompted NSW Labor Council and the Workers Health Centre to begin drafting a workplace bullying policy.

The policy is sure to be welcomed by one victim who this week decided to go public with her plight. Marion worked as a welfare officer in Australian correctional centres for more than 10 years before becoming a victim of bullying herself.

Marion says her supervisor began a campaign of bullying and intimidation against her after she failed to complete an additional task she was given, apparently due to a lack of time and resources.

Immediately pulling in the facility's acting governor and the acting chief welfare officer, Marion says her supervisor ensured he had the weight of the department behind him when he confronted her about her 'inability' to follow his instruction. Their joint confrontation - dressed up as a mediation session - left her little hope she was in for a fair hearing.

Soon after, and amid escalating demands being placed upon her, Marion says she was ordered to relocate her office. She was ordered to move to part of the prison where she would be the only worker present on most days and which came fitted with only a fire alarm to ring in case she needed assistance. Aside from that, it was largely just her and the inmates, she says.

Marion says her ongoing treatment by this stage had eroded her faith in the internal complaint mechanisms and left her with little choice to go external - to her union and WorkCover - with her concerns.

She lost her appetite, was unable to sleep and dreaded going into work. But she says two of the worst things were not knowing whom to turn to for support and feeling as though nothing she could do would change the workplace culture enough to stop it from reoccurring in the future.

Marion is now on stress leave while, for the person who initiated the bullying - her direct supervisor - business continues as usual.

There is nothing unusual about Marion's situation, according to the Workers Health Centre's Peggy Trompf. Peggy has heard so many bullying horror stories that she has now started working in conjunction with NSW Labor Council to come up with a policy to try and weed out bullying behaviour from Australian workplaces.

Peggy says a firm policy on bullying is desperately needed to let all employees - from the heads of organisations down - know that they are equally bound by legislation that leaves no room for harassment.

It would outline a clear set of steps for victims, perpetrators and employers to take when bullying situations arise, outline responsibilities, and help people identify what does and does not constitute bullying behaviour. It would also ensure a consistent and appropriate approach is taken in dealing with the problem, without causing yet more harm to the victim.

Peggy says the policy would be adopted by individual employers through the enterprise agreement process, enabling it to be enforced in the IRC.

What is certain is that current measures commonly used by employers are not working. One of the most common of these, mediation, simply cannot work, according to PSA Industrial Officer Andrew Wilson.

"Mediation offers employers an opportunity to avoid taking responsibility for workplace bullying," Andrew says.

He says employers often want to see bulling as being a "mere disagreement between employees at work."

"That way it is the responsibility of the employees involved and not the organisation," he says.

Mediation involves an independent person sitting down with people who have some form of disagreement to assist them to resolve their differences. The mediator will usually meet with the opposing parties separately at first before convening a meeting where they are bought together. Mediation is voluntary and relies on the goodwill of the parties to succeed.

Andrew says mediation presumes that the fault for the disagreement lies relatively equally with both parties. Yet "bullying cases are characterised by the fault lying overwhelmingly with one party."

"It can be extremely traumatic for victims to be bought to the same table as those who have bullied them to talk about it, especially if the face accusations they are lying or that their work performance was not up to standard," he says.

Andrew says bullying is best addressed through disciplinary action or intervention aimed at behavioural change. "Professional counsellors who challenge bullies about their violent and inappropriate behaviour have a role in dealing with workplace bullying. In some cases this has lead to a bullying-free workplace. However when such intervention is not successful, bullies need to be disciplined".

NSW Labor Council and the Workers Health Centre's bullying policy aims to ensure this vital step becomes part of the process.


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