What’s Been Happening in Australia in Relation to Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Bullying from 24 – 30 September 2018

Alice Springs Councillors Allege Culture of Bullying
Alice Springs Town councillors have made allegations that there is a workplace culture of bullying. Five of the nine councillors, whose terms have not yet lasted one year, claim to be the personal victims of bullying or to have seen others being bullied. Cr Marli Banks is one of the former, claiming that the bullies have ‘slandered’ her reputation. She further said that local councillors are not adequately protected against bullying. Local councillors are protected neither by the parliamentary privilege of their federal counterparts nor by national anti-bullying laws, which only apply to constitutional corporations. Cr Banks said the only protection lies with the Local Government Act and an ineffective code of conduct complaints system, introduced in 2008. Fellow councillor, Eli Melky, echoed her sentiments, together with those of their colleagues who sought to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. Despite their claims that the level of bullying was affecting their working effectively, Deputy Mayor Matt Paterson denied having witnessed such behaviour. Alice Springs Mayor Damien Ryan refused to comment on the matter.

Ipswich Councillors Dismissed for Bullying Now Suing For Wrongful Dismissal
Ipswich councillors are taking action to sue their former employer, Ipswich City Council, over wrongful dismissal. The Queensland state government recently legislated to dismiss the local council, including fifteen councillors and staff who were formally charged, over a toxic culture of corruption and bullying. Six of the councillors are bringing a suit to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission’s Industrial Court for a payout, which could equate to 26 weeks’ worth of pay. Paul Tully, one of the former councillors in the suit, realises that given the state government legislated on the matter, it is unlikely that they will be reinstated. Nevertheless, he claims to want to have his voice heard in the court and is ‘open to any reasonable offer made by the council’.

ABS Data Shows Women Earn on Average 89% of the Male Wage
According to newly released ABS data, female engineering graduates are earning more than their male counterparts. The Gender Indicators, Australia report shows that women are earning $65,000 as opposed to men, who make $63,500. Despite these figures, women are still at a disadvantage, with female graduates earning less than males in 15 of 19 other industries. Moreover, females earn on average 89% of the male wage, and men continue to outnumber women as CEOs, judges, ministers and parliamentarians, all despite women attaining a higher level of education on average. The Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer, stated that the pay gap is still at a record low for the past decade, at 14.5%.

FW Appeal Upholds Decision that the Roads and Maritime Services is Bound by Fair Work Act and Therefore Stop Bullying Order Applies
The NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) has had its appeal (in the case of Roads and Maritime Services v Leeman [2018] FWCFB 5772) against an anti-bullying order dismissed. In the initial trial with the Fair Work Commission, Victoria Leeman sought an order to stop bullying pursuant to s 789FC of the Fair Work Act. Under this provision, a ‘worker who reasonably believes that he or she has been bullied at work’ can apply for the order. The Fair Work Commission can, in turn and pursuant to s 789FF, make a discretionary order if satisfied that the worker was ‘bullied at work’ and that there was a further risk of continued bullying. The RMS had argued that she was not ‘at work’ and that in the alternative, the RMS was not a ‘constitutionally covered business’, as required by the statute. The Senior Deputy President Hamberger rejected these arguments, prompting the RMS to appeal to the full bench of the Fair Work Commission. In the current matter, the full bench allowed the appeal, in recognition of its potentially wide application and the fact that more anti-bullying applications under s 789FC might arise subsequently. However, they ultimately found that the Deputy President had not erred, dismissing the appeal and confirming the finding in favour of Ms Leeman.