Bully allegations hurting council

CITY of Rockingham chief executive officer Andrew Hammond has called on the Australian Services Union to end its campaign against alleged bullying at the council, saying the claims were damaging staff morale and the City’s upstanding reputation.

The ASU’s claim leans on a survey completed by 78 of the council’s employees that found just under 10 per cent of total staff – 48 people – said they had experienced intimidation, victimisation or workplace bullying.

About 50 survey respondents said they had witnessed bullying and 42 (which equates to just over eight per cent of total staff) said higher managers were responsible for the bullying.

An angry Mr Hammond said the City was a friendly, inclusive workplace, with strong personal and professional friendships and the bullying claims, which surfaced last month, were false and had upset the majority of staff.

He said of more than 500 employees, only 10.3 per cent (excluding retirements) left the City last year, almost half the WA local government industry average of 19 per cent.

Staff turnover at the City in 2006 was 24 per cent, 26 per cent in 2007, 22 per cent in 2008 and 14 per cent in 2009.

ASU assistant branch secretary Pat Branson said the union had been investigating complaints of procedural bullying by management at the council since 2009 and claimed 29 members left the City in the last 18 months because of bullying.

She said their investigation concluded the bullying was a result of management style. 

It also suggested it was long-term, widespread and procedural, and there was an increased turnover of employees.

Examples of bullying included employees being refused access to entitlements, being inappropriately spoken to by managers, told not to speak to each other socially during work and not to return home during meal breaks.

Mr Hammond strongly denied the claims, saying the City had not received one substantiated bullying complaint from the ASU in the past three years, and welcomed an inquiry by Fair Work Australia.

“We have from day one requested the ASU provide us with details of incidents, names, events, dates and they have not done so,” he said.

“They have given us anonymous allegations.”