||Issue No. 237||10 September 2004|
Interview: True Matilda
Politics: State of Play
Industrial: Capital Dilemmas
Unions: Rhodes Scholars
National Focus: Rennovating the Lodge
International: People Power
Economics: A Bit Rich
History: Mine Shafts
Safety: Sick Of Fighting
Organising: Building a Wave
Poetry: Anger In The Bush(es)
Review: The Battle Of Algiers
Culture: The Word On The Street
The Locker Room
A survey conducted to coincide with the conference found three in every four workers reported having been subjected to bullying in the workplace.
Scratch the surface and you discover that this is not a just an outbreak of cruel individuals, it is a growing phenomenon linked to the way our workplaces are organised.
When questioned about bullying, the concept quickly becomes mixed in with issues of stress and harassment, the terms merge until they become almost interchangeable, adding up to a psychologically dysfunctional workplace.
The difficulty with bullying and its cousins is that, unlike physical safety risks on construction sites, factories or farms, psychological risks are often hard to pin down and only proven when the risk becomes an injury.
How do you conduct a check of a workplace to ensure it is psychologically safe; how do you identify hazards, how do you mitigate risks?
As the speakers at this week's conference repeated, it is all about the management of personal relationships - whether it is the worker bullied by unreasonable workloads or the apprentice bullied in the initiation ceremony, bullying speaks to a breakdown of dignity at work.
It is this thinking behind Labor Council's response - to promote a positive agenda embodied by its 'Dignity at Work' charter. The charter recognises that bullying is a symptom of alienation in the workplace and that the way to address bullying is to get everyone working together.
It is at this point that bullying sits within a broader analysis of what is happening to our workplaces, driven by the labour market deregulation agenda.
The breaking down of central rules at work in favour of managerial prerogative occurred hand in hand with the management by fear technique that US CEOs like Chainsaw Al Dunlap made his own.
Indeed, the two ideas - slash and burn management and labour market deregulation were cooked up in the same think tanks in the eighties.
Twenty years on, we have the majority of workers feeling squeezed; in terms of hours, finances and also work relations.
In this election campaign we are hearing a lot about family friendly hours and family tax cuts, but it is the third element - dignity at work, that the major parties have the most significant policy differences.
When the Prime Minister talks of more 'IR' reform, he is really talking about getting rid of even more limits to managerial prerogative; when Labor promises to restore balance, it is dignity of workers that will be the winners.
Amidst the clouds of terror and interest rates it may be a hard message to cut through, but for the 75 per cent of the workforce who feel bullied, pushed and generally put under the psychological pump, the choice is a real one.
Any teacher will tell you the schoolyard bully is a victim of his or her environment. The workplace bully is no different - and it in John Howard's workplace that they have continued to thrive.
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