Aug 17 2011

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AU:Claims bullying rife at NGV

By Gabriella Coslovich, The Sydney Morning Herald

Allegations of bullying at the National Gallery of Victoria have prompted scrutiny of its internal culture and have cast doubts on its commitment to tackling workplace bullying.

There are at least two complaints of bullying against failed businessman Andrew O’Brien, who was appointed head of the gallery’s commercial operations in November 2005 and who abruptly resigned last week.

One of the employees who was allegedly bullied by Mr O’Brien, and who has since left the gallery, took the complaint to a lawyer after it was not resolved by the gallery, despite union involvement.

Industrial relations lawyer David Shaw, of Holding Redlich, said he had represented an NGV employee in a bullying complaint against Mr O’Brien. The case was settled several months ago and the person, who no longer works for the NGV, signed a confidentiality agreement. The Age was unable to contact Mr O’Brien.

NGV director Gerard Vaughan declined to comment. The gallery would not be drawn on whether a payment had been made to the former employee to secure confidentiality and refused to answer questions about Mr O’Brien’s departure.

Andrew Capp, from the Community and Public Sector Union, said Mr O’Brien’s resignation did not signal the end of bullying at the NGV. ”Even with Andrew O’Brien leaving I am not expecting that the issue of bullying will go away,” he said.

Mr Capp said the union was also working on another bullying complaint brought by an NGV employee against another gallery manager. He said NGV had not dealt with the allegations appropriately.

The union will survey members at major Melbourne public art institutions on bullying.

Dr Vaughan declined to comment on whether he was aware that Mr O’Brien was a disqualified businessman.

In 2009 the Australian Securities and Investments Commission disqualified Mr O’Brien, a failed restaurateur and nursing home operator, from running companies for four years.

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