Complaints over workplace bullying changes rejected

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Complaints over workplace bullying changes rejected

The Federal Government will continue to push for tougher workplace bullying laws despite opposition from employers, including BHP Billiton.

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The Federal Government will continue to push for tougher workplace bullying laws despite opposition from employers, including BHP Billiton (BHPB).

Major employer organisations have opposed the plan to make workplace bullying a matter that can be dealt with by the Fair Work Commission, with BHPB saying it would encourage ‘forum shopping’.

It would also encourage ‘mischievous claims’ and be misused by some employees, BHPB said.

‘Just because a giant mining company says that we shouldn’t tackle the scourge of workplace bullying doesn’t mean that the government is going to immediately give up protecting victims of workplace bullying,’ IR Minister Bill Shorten said at a media conference.

‘Anyone who tells Australians that workplace bullying — that the status quo of workplace bullying and the current protections are working — just talk to one of the many hundreds of victims that the House of Representatives inquiry heard from last year.’

Toxic problem

‘The truth is that in Australian workplaces, workplace bullying is a toxic problem.’

‘So when BHP Billiton says that we shouldn’t do anything on workplace bullying, my view is I’ll listen to BHP Billiton’s view like I listen to everyone else’s but I want to also stand up as Labor does for the victims of workplace bullying.’
 
‘If you have a look at workers comp claims, if you have a look at the stress, the harm, the personal loss.’
 
‘Anyone saying that Labor should turn a blind eye to tackling the scourge of workplace bullying just hasn’t met one of the many hundreds of victims of workplace bullying that exist.’

Shorten also rejected criticism that the second round of changes to the Fair Work Act were restrictive and made it difficult to do business — such as the right to consultation over roster changes and arbitration of intractable disputes.

Circuit breakers

‘We are proposing that when it comes to intractable disputes there should be some circuit breakers,’ Shorten said.

‘I for one don’t want to see any Qantas style lockouts and stranding of hundreds of thousands of passengers.’

‘When it comes to family flexible arrangements, we’ve got a bit smarter these days.’

‘We understand that it’s appropriate to encourage people to have dialogue between employee and employer.’
 
‘The idea that the right to request leave because you’re the victim of domestic violence — if you think that is an attack on Australian industry, well then we live on different planets.’

‘Get with the times’

‘I don’t blame business for in some cases saying they don’t want to change anything, but you know, we’ve got to get with the times.’

‘Workplace bullying is a real issue, family flexibility, that’s sensible, so we’ve got lots of good ideas. And we’ll keep working through with business.’

Shorten said it was time for the Opposition to release its IR policies

‘We don’t know anything about the Opposition policies, we don’t know if they will guarantee things like shift rate, shift rosters, penalty rates,’ he said.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the Opposition wanted ‘a bit of tactical flexibility’ about the timing ‘but people won’t be kept on tenterhooks for too much longer’.
 
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