REPORT TAFE WORKS / TAFE VP REPORT
BY MIKE FITZGERALD AND JANET HARRIS
Public Education Voice • Official Journal of the AEU [Australian Education Union] - A CT Branch • PAGE 19 to 20.
Worksafe ACT Report
Of course we all want a respectful safe workplace free from bullying and harassment. There has been much focus on this of late, in the media and in the government. What does it mean? It means we should all be able to come to work with confidence, pride, and a sense that we are respected, important, valued members of our organization. It means we can expect to be treated decently, not harassed or shouted at, or humiliated or embarrassed. Governments and courts and commissions are all agreed: this is a right that we all have in Australian workplaces.
You may be wondering what the report into bullying at CIT is about. Some members have felt their workplace was not as described above and have brought claims and complaints to CIT which they feel were not appropriately dealt with. The AEU, together with those members, brought this matter to the attention of WorkSafe ACT and a report resulted.
On 11th April 2012 this WorkSafe ACT Report was served on CIT along with an Improvement Notice. The report found that CIT had failed to meet its duty under the Work Safety Act 2008 and the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. The Improvement Notice includes 10 directions which have the goal of creating at CIT an adequate system for preventing or responding to allegations from its workers of bullying and harassment arising from their work as part of CIT’s undertaking.
The full report may be accessed from the website: http://www.worksafe.act.gov.au/news/ view/1312/title/investigation-into-bullyingat- the
CIT has been directed by the WorkSafe ACT Commissioner to comply within 6 months to the directions. Key among these 10 directions is the requirement for CIT to: -
‘Examine and review CIT’s current policies and procedures in relation to the prevention and management of bullying and harassment of staff to ensure they clearly identify in what circumstances allegations of bullying should always be the subject of an independent investigation as well as what process will be used and who will decide what level of investigation is appropriate in all other cases’ –
‘Take active steps, in addition to this, to build staff confidence in the policies and procedures in relation to prevention and management of bullying and harassment of staff’ –
‘Test staff confidence in the bullying and harassment complaints process at regular intervals [this could be done through a range of measures such as regular staff surveys with questions testing this specific issue as well as analysis of independently conducted exit interviews]’
This WorkSafe ACT Report was tabled by the Minister, Dr Chris Bourke, in the ACT Legislative Assembly on 1st May 2012. The Minister’s speech was scathing of the current CIT practices exposed in the Report and may be accessed in full via the Hansard transcript for Tuesday May 1st 2012. The Minister supported the WorkSafe ACT report by also issuing his own directions to the CIT.
The Process Now
The Commissioner for Public Administration will examine and make recommendations about:
• Matters relating to the way CIT has managed client complaints, employee disputes, employee applications for review of management actions and allegations of misconduct or underperformance;
• Systemic issues relating to CIT;
• Individual matters already referred to him; and
• Any individual matters that the Commissioner determines have relevance for the points above.
The Canberra Times on 28th May reported some 39 complaints before the Commissioner. The AEU cannot comment upon the nature of these individual complaints. However we understand that many contain allegations which are yet to be verified.
• investigate all new client complaints, employee disputes, employee applications for review of management actions and allegations of misconduct or underperformance not previously reported to CIT;
• manage any reviews and investigations already underway through to conclusion;
• report to the Commissioner for Public Administration on the process for handling these matters as part of action taken under the Improvement Notice; and
• conduct fact finding, investigations and other procedures in a fair and transparent manner and in accordance with the relevant industrial agreements, law, policy and the principles of natural justice.
Clients and /or staff may refer any of the above matters to the Executive Director, Governance and Executive Services, Ms Carolyn Grayson Tel: 02 6207 4957, Email: Carolyn.Grayson@cit.edu.au
In person: CIT, Room A119, Reid Campus, Constitution Avenue, Canberra
By mail: GPO 826, Canberra ACT 2601.
In circumstances where a complainant may perceive a conflict of interest or has limited faith in this internal process then the AEU suggests that the matter be referred directly to the CPA for independent investigation.
Suspected breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 or previous legislation may also be referred to the Commissioner for WorkSafety, Mr Mark McCabe. In addition, Respect, Equity and Diversity (RED) Contact officers may be confidentially approached.
The AEU is aware that members’ perception of the WorkSafe ACT Report will vary, dependent upon personal experience, their local workplace culture and management styles. The AEU is also aware that a number of members may remain reluctant to raise complaints at this time. Should any member require support please contact Mike Fitzgerald at the Union office on 62727900.
Complying With the Improvement Notice
Meg Brighton (Director, Continuous Improvement and Workers’ Compensation in the Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate) has been appointed to oversee the compliance by CIT with the WorkSafe ACT Improvement Notice directions. CIT has established a CIT Improvement Action Group (IAG) of Adrian Marron (Chief Executive), Meg Brighton, Nicole Stenlake (Special Project Manager- Worksafe), Shane Kay (Acting Deputy CE Operations), Michele Delaine (Director, Centre for Organisational Capability) and Carolyn Grayson (Acting Deputy CE Governance) This group has the role of overseeing the development of a CIT plan for compliance with the Improvement Notice directives.
A second group has been established; the CIT Worksafe Improvement Consultation Group (WICG) including; Meg Brighton, Nicole Stenlake, Shane Kay, and Union representatives Peter Malone (AEU Assistant Secretary Industrial), Mike Fitzgerald (AEU Organiser) and Leila Walter (CPSU Organiser). This forum will permit consultation on strategies to comply with the 10 Worksafe directions and will ensure staff consultation during the process.
Outcomes Sought by AEU from the Improvement Notice Processes
The outcomes that the AEU wishes to see from the Improvement Notice process are:
1. Clarification and revision of all relevant processes contained in the Enterprise Agreements, CIT policies and applicable legislation. This includes:
- ensuring that there is no duplication of processes for the handling of the various types of issues/complaints and
- discussion of the current EAP provision to staff.
AEU members will be consulted throughout this process to ensure that the policies are appropriate and will, in fact, work. The AEU has requested that CIT provide additional resources and teaching release to facilitate member engagement in these consultation and policy review processes.
2. Agreed processes for implementing cultural change within the organisation.
We believe that an agreed Code of Professional Practice is particularly important to achieve this.
3. Establish a reconciliation/mediation framework for future issues/complaints. This should involve a process that allows people to have their complaint properly heard and an impartial decision made about the possible ways for it to be addressed. It may include the identification of a network of trained people within CIT who can respectfully and with full management support deal with these matters.
Long Term Solution Requires Increased Funding to CIT
One of the key factors in the creation of the current environment in CIT has been the pressure placed on staff by budgetary cuts. The Union continues to lobby the ACT and Federal Governments to increase funding of CIT so as to provide less stressful and healthier workloads for staff. In the context of the ACT election in October this year, members are also encouraged to contact your local candidates and push for a better deal for CIT.
The CIT funding vs education output equation is simply not working. Successive ACT and Federal Governments have reduced the combined CIT funding per nominal hour by 33% between 1997 and 2009, while expecting the same or increased educational outputs. At the same time they have chosen to not monitor the workplace stress and behavioural implications of these actions.
The negative impact of these cuts on the culture at CIT must not be ignored any longer by government.
Either the funding of CIT must increase to appropriate levels to support Government determined targeted outputs or else the output targets must be reduced to levels commensurate with the funding levels. Which will it be, Ministers?
This article has been copied in full and posted here with no alterations except for formatting and some paragraphing. Please follow the link for the full publication at: http://www.aeuact.asn.au/uploads/file/JUNE%202012%20PEV%20WEB.pdf