An investigation into the Independent Education Union of Australia (IEUA) has found that WA branch secretary Angela Briant has left the organisation open to legal action. Ms Briant, one of WA’s highest-paid union secretaries, has faced allegations of bullying, improperly incurred expenses, and conflicts of interests since October last year. The allegations initially surfaced when the Australian Services Union (ASU) reported to WorkSafe that 25% of the IEUA’s staff were on leave as a result of workplace bullying. ASU branch secretary Wayne Wood said bullying and harassment at IEUA have persisted for months. Wood remarked that the IEUA’s ‘workplace is sadly a very dangerous place for several workers right now.’ ‘It gives me no pleasure to have to call out another union, but our responsibility is to our members who deserve a safe workplace,’ he added. ‘The reality is that bullying is a major driver of mental health issues and the IEUA has been identified as a hazardous workplace for that reason,’ Wood said. In the report prepared for IEUA management, the investigator found that several IEUA employees had grounds to commence legal proceedings against both the union and Ms Briant. During the investigation, 14 union staff claimed psychological harm, hurt and humiliation as a result of Ms Briant’s behaviour. The 130-page investigative report described Ms Briant as passionate about her job and the union but warned that IEUA management must take action to rectify her conduct.
Employment law experts have warned that jobseekers in the 45-54 age bracket are still being discriminated against, despite statistics which show that mature-age workforce participation has improved. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), workforce participation in the 45–54 age group has climbed from 70 per cent in the late 1970s to above 80 per cent in 2018. However, as of March 2020, 180,500 people aged 45–64 remain unemployed in Australia. Experts say that this statistic is a product of age discrimination. Employment agencies and the national social service body have observed that ‘hunting for a job over the age of 45 is rife with hardship and discrimination.’ They note that these difficulties are compounded by the ‘longstanding’ perception that older workers are less physically capable and have inferior skills. This perception was certainly true for 57-year-old former nurse Becca Marie of Geelong, who has been searching for a job for over nine years. ‘Since the time I gave up nursing I’ve had trouble trying to get work,’ she said. ‘Especially last year, when I was really trying, I knew that I was going to bottom-out and have no money at all.’ ‘I’ve actually lost everything so I’m basically starting from nothing,’ she said. However, Becca Marie is not alone in this experience. According to employment agency, Matchworks, over-45s have one of the toughest times getting work. Executive general manager, Renee Lowry, said this is because of the persistent prejudice against older job hunters. ‘I don’t really understand – when we see people who are over the age of 60 and still have five years of employment, at least, left in them, often more – why employers wouldn’t say all workers are a good option,’ she said. ‘Sometimes prejudices are just too longstanding, and it is going to take us a long time to break through that,’ she concluded. Ms Lowry advised that the best way for older working demographics themselves to combat age-related prejudice is to remain as upskilled as possible.