Friday, November 15, 2013

Ministerial Statement on allegations of workplace bullying and misconduct at the Canberra Institute of Technology

Ministerial Statement on allegations of workplace bullying and misconduct at the Canberra Institute of Technology

[Minister Burch in the legislative assembly October 24th 2013]

On Thursday 26 September the Commissioner for Public Administration published his report of the Review of Allegations of Workplace Bullying and Other Misconduct at the Canberra Institute of Technology Colleagues, Not Cases - Managing People and Resolving Workplace Issues.

This has been a long awaited and welcomed report.  The Commissioner conducted the review after consultation with the CIT Chief Executive, the Chief Minister, Minister for Education and Training, following the release of the WorkSafe ACT report in April 2012.

The report provides a systemic review of concerns raised about CIT’s management of workplace issues, allegations of bullying or other misconduct, and its employees. It seeks to draw learnings for CIT and the wider ACTPS that might inform and improve ongoing management practices.

The Commissioner found that CIT is NOT characterised by a culture of entrenched and systemic bullying.

The report did identify some issues in relation to a small number of individuals and particular areas within CIT, some of which reopened historical matters and decisions made ten years ago.  

The Commissioner was clear in his report that those concerns should not be allowed to taint the whole organisation and that CIT staff members, almost without exception, are professional, behave properly, and are dedicated to the advancement of their students and to the success of CIT.  

The Commissioner made nine recommendations. CIT has welcomed the report and has accepted all the recommendations. Of these, two that relate specifically to CIT. These are:
Recommendation 1:  That CIT acknowledge and apologise for past failures in the management of a small number of areas within CIT when dealing with workplace issues and when dealing with allegations of workplace bullying, and recommit itself to fostering positive workplaces with healthy workforce cultures. In so doing, CIT should continue to resource and consistently apply the initiatives set out in its response to the WorkSafe report of April 2012.
Recommendation 4: That CIT appoint additional Respect, Equity and Diversity Contact Officers in accordance with the RED Framework to support implementation of the framework and assist in the resolution of workplace issues.

CIT has acted swiftly in relation to recommendation 1 and has written to the individuals the Commissioner was in contact with in September 2013 extending a sincere apology.

CIT Chief Executive (Acting), through internal communication, has apologised to all CIT staff, noting the impact this has had on all involved. The CIT Chief Executive (Acting) has also extended an invitation to all staff to speak with her directly about the content of the report, should they wish to do so.  

CIT has publicly recommitted to fostering positive workplaces with healthy workforce cultures and will continue to resource and consistently apply the initiatives set out in its response to the WorkSafe report of April 2012.

In relation to recommendation 4, the engagement of additional RED Contact Officers outside of the corporate area has been accepted and options for implementation are being considered by the CIT People Committee with recommendations from that Committee expected to go to the CIT Board of Management on 31 October.

The remaining seven recommendations are relevant to all agencies in the ACT public sector that engage staff under the Public Sector Management Act, and are subject to the ACTPS Code of Conduct. A whole-of-government response to these recommendations is being prepared and will be provided in due course. CIT will be also considering how it will adopt these recommendations as it has a momentum of action in relation to these matters. 

Since the release of the WorkSafe report in 2012 and the Ministerial Direction to the CIT Chief Executive, CIT has conducted a large body of work to improve its management of workplace bullying and other issues by ensuring mangers are skilled in addressing these matters. CIT has also made significant changes to enhance its workplace culture.  A comprehensive progress report outlining some of this work was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on 23 August 2012.

The Commissioner is of the view that CIT has demonstrated genuine commitment and good will in its response to the WorkSafe report of April 2012 and also acknowledges the very significant efforts made by the CIT Executive through the course of 2012, in collaboration with staff and unions, to address the issues identified by WorkSafe and to improve CIT’s policy and procedural framework for dealing with workplace issues.

The Commissioner believes that CIT’s new framework for managing workplace issues demonstrates leading practice in the ACT public sector and that this framework “should form the basis of a template to be consistently applied across all directorates and agencies”.

I am assured that CIT Chief Executive (Acting) has been very responsive to the complaints that were received by the Commissioner for Public Administration in 2012 both in terms of the recommendations regarding individual complaints and the overall recommendations of the Commissioner’s report.

The Commissioner noted that CIT is not overrepresented in contemporary complaints to his office and that a number of the original complaints were withdrawn “based on their positive experiences of change following implementation of CIT’s response to the WorkSafe report”.

This is testament to the progress that CIT has made in improving its practices around managing workplace issues and the workplace culture. CIT has also acknowledged that its handling of some of the matters that were escalated to the Commissioner could have been better managed.  The learnings from CIT and this experience will contribute to the enhancement of the ACTPS for all employees.

The ACT Government is committed to a public service where all staff adhere to the values of respect, integrity, collaboration and innovation enshrined in the ACTPS Code of Conduct and treat each other accordingly. Managing people is not always easy and straight forward, particularly within a large workforce of such diversity. To do this well is not easy and can be confronting for many of our managers. Its takes courage, good leadership, clear direction and continual review of policies and procedures to make sure they are working effectively. CIT has demonstrated that with concerted effort you can change workplace culture.

I believe it is time now for the ACT Government and members of the ACT Legislative Assembly to support CIT to rebuild its reputation as one of the ACT’s chief educational assets.

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