Who regulates the regulator?
Following is an article published on www.injuredworkerssupport.org.au which is a chilling insight into the failures of a workplace regulator to prevent bullying within its own organisation, let alone prevent workplace bullying in workplaces across the state of New South Wales. Thankfully, in this case the NSW Industrial Relations Commission overturned the sacking of the bullied NSW Workcover employee.
A SENIOR WorkCover employee ‘‘bullied’’ out of the state government agency has been handed his job back by a Newcastle court.
WorkCover was told it engaged in “scurrilous” and “malicious” behaviour in moving to “persecute” computer contract manager Wayne Butler “out of the organisation”.
Mr Butler, of Saratoga, said on Sunday night that the ordeal had taken an enormous toll on him and his family, but he would be going back to work and seeking changes to the way WorkCover operated to ensure ‘‘this can never happen again to any other member of staff’’.
He was also seeking a formal apology from WorkCover.
In a 35-page verdict delivered on Friday, deputy president Rod Harrison of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission said WorkCover’s conduct was ‘‘shabby and disgraceful’’ and had all ‘‘the characterisation of institutional bullying’’.
WorkCover had accused Mr Butler of ‘‘having an improper relationship with a sex worker’’ when ‘‘a simple inquiry … would have revealed’’ the truth.
Mr Butler was a spokesman for the Shared Parenting Council of Australia and the woman, who happened to work in a brothel, had phoned him for advice about child custody.
In another incident, Mr Butler was asked by superior staff to obtain some Microsoft T-shirts at the time of a computer system upgrade.
He was later accused of misusing his position for doing so.
Emailing work home to himself at night led to a charge of ‘‘failing to maintain information security’’.
Accepting a single restaurant lunch generated a charge of ‘‘failing to report and record gifts’’ although the court decision said there was ‘‘no evidence whatsoever to suggest’’ it would ‘‘compromise Mr Butler or WorkCover’’.
Mr Harrison said a six-volume report produced as part of Mr Butler’s dismissal proceedings was ‘‘fundamentally flawed’’ and ‘‘arrived at conclusions that were not supported by facts’’.
He said there was ‘‘no substance to any of the [eight] allegations made against Mr Butler’’, who was stood down in March 2012 and dismissed in November 2012 after 12 years of service.
Other allegations included misuse of a WorkCover mobile phone, failure to get permission to work with the Shared Parenting Council, a failure to keep ‘‘flexitime’’ sheets and proper records of working hours.
‘‘In many ways Mr Butler is served up as a scapegoat for systemic management failure and as a sacrifice to an application of policy and procedure in a draconian way which countenances no innocent explanation,’’ Mr Harrison wrote.
The Public Service Association backed Mr Butler and said it was backing a parliamentary inquiry into bullying in WorkCover.
Greens MLC David Shoebridge said WorkCover was the organisation responsible for monitoring and countering bullying in other workplaces.
“When you realise that WorkCover is supposed to be policing these sorts of things across the workplace, and you see what was done to David, as uncovered in this judgment, it is absolutely beyond a doubt that an inquiry is needed,’’ Mr Shoebridge said.
WorkCover is under the portfolio of embattled NSW Finance Minister Greg Pearce, who took a month’s stress leave last week after surviving opposition calls for him to be sacked.
A WorkCover spokesman said the government took ‘‘all allegations of workplace bullying seriously’’ and was reviewing Mr Harrison’s decision.