Sep 01 2011

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AU: Bureaucrats urged to dob-in bullies

By Neol Towell, The Canberra Times

The ACT’s public sector chiefs have been ordered to encourage their staff to dob-in a bully as the Government reacts to the latest workplace harassment controversy to hit its bureaucracy.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said she told her mandarins to spread the word in all public sector workplaces that staff should speak out against unacceptable behaviour.

But in the wake of the edict from the top, the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, representing a high profile bullying victim, has warned against a sinister form of harassment that is not covered by any protocols currently in place.

”Mobbing” is described as a particular type of harassment that is different from the traditionally understood definition of bullying as the abuse of power.

According to union spokeswoman Jane Timbrell, mobbing is recognised by experts as an emotional assault beginning when an individual becomes the target of disrespectful and harmful behaviour.

Then, through innuendo, rumours, and public discrediting, a hostile environment is created in which one individual gathers others to take part in malicious actions to force a person out of the workplace.

Ms Timbrell said the policy did not cover mobbing.

The union official said member and high-profile whistleblower Debbie Scattergood was the victim of a mobbing campaign after she blew the lid on waste and mismanagement on a multimillion Territory and Municipal Services contract four years ago.

”Nobody should have to put up with what Debbie had to put up with,” Ms Timbrell said.

”Therefore the AMWU requests that incidents of mobbing be taken out of the department and referred to the Human Rights Commission.”

But Ms Gallagher said through a spokeswoman yesterday the Government had a framework in place to deal with instances of workplace bullying.

”Everyone in the workplace deserves to be treated with respect and courtesy,” the spokeswoman said.

”In support of this the concept of ‘Respect’ has been included in the revised ACTPS Equity and Diversity Framework.
‘The Chief Minister and Head of Service [Andrew Cappie-Wood] have both recently reiterated to staff that an important part of a positive work culture involves encouraging staff at all levels to speak about unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.”

The spokeswoman said that a ”whole-of-government approach” had been put in place to prevent workplace harassment.

”As part of the revision of the framework, a whole-of-government approach to preventing work bullying has been developed,” she said.

”This includes … prevention guidelines to ensure ACTPS agencies are meeting their ethical and legal obligations in preventing and responding to complaints of work bullying. It is important that employees are encouraged to speak up about workplace bullying.”

The spokeswoman said all levels of ACT public service management were expected to encourage workers to raise a workplace issue with their manager.

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