Comcare fails to enforce CSIRO Improvement Notice

Posted on January 13, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Improvement Notices issued to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have not only failed to address the rampant culture of workplace bullying but also backfired against new complainants.

Since issuing an updated Improvement Notice, Comcare, the Federal Health and Safety regulator has received a number of complaints from CSIRO employees reporting allegations of serious bullying.

In one such case, an employee contacted Comcare to report that the bullying behaviour which the employee was experiencing had actually escalated subsequent to that employee’s supervisor undertaking the Bullying eLearning Module which has been much lauded by the CSIRO’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Megan Clark.

Victims of CSIRO have identified breaches of the Improvement Notice in the following manners:

1. Failure to notify Comcare of new bullying allegations:

In at least two separate cases in the last few weeks, CSIRO have failed to meet its obligations under the Improvement Notice by failing to report allegations of bullying which were reported as high up as the CEO herself. Not only this, the CSIRO has failed to act swiftly in addressing the allegations and protecting vulnerable employees, some who it is alleged are being coerced into signing false statements against injured employees in further acts of bullying and victimisation.

2. Failure to display Improvement Notices

CSIRO has failed to display the most recent iteration of Improvement Notice throughout its workplace despite being applicable to the entire organisation.  Thus far, the CSIRO have only displayed the notice in its Entomology (now Ecosystem Sciences) division at Black Mountain in accordance with the initial Improvement Notice.

What has the response of Comcare been to these complaints?

To date Comcare have failed to sanction CSIRO in any way, shape or form over these breaches indicating that it has no intention of holding CSIRO to its obligations under the most recent Improvement Notice.

Furthermore, Comcare have notified at least one complainant that they are not prepared to investigate any further notified acts of bullying in direct contradiction of the public statement made by Comcare CEO, Mr Paul O’Connor in which he stated that Comcare would investigate any new allegations brought to their attention. Comcare have thus far failed to fully investigate any of the 12 complaints of bullying submitted through Maurice Blackburn Lawyers and have stated that they have no intention of addressing these complaints individually.

In relation to this matter, Comcare advised one former employee that it had no power to act in relation to the employee’s complaint despite the employee having suffered a permanent injury, significant financial disadvantage, and even the admission of CSIRO having failed in its duties under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act to provide appropriate rehabilitation to the injured employee both prior to and subsequent to that employees termination by the CSIRO. The former employee’s doctor has been scathing of the CSIRO’s poor performance stating that the medical professional has only once been contacted by CSIRO over a 5 year period in relation to that employee’s injury and rehabilitation requirements. Both the former employees doctor and a medical assessor engaged by Comcare itself have stated that the former employees future prognosis has deteriorated significantly as a result of the CSIRO’s failure to intervene and provide rehabilitation support and that the best prognosis the former employee can expect is to experience no further degradation in psychological function despite an already significant permanent impairment.

Despite the enormity of this problem within the CSIRO, not one single CSIRO employee has been charged in relation to serious breaches under the Work Health and Safety Act, its predecessor or for the failure of the organisation to meet its obligations to injured employees under the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act.

How can anyone seriously expect any form of meaningful change to occur when regulators such as Comcare fail to act?

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