Airservices Australia has been slammed in a report that states the organisation may have cases to answer for allowing a culture of bullying, discrimination and sexual harrassment to exist in the workplace.
The report, commissioned by air traffic control union Civil Air through Maurice Blackburn Lawyers and released this week, has been labeled by Airservices Australia as "false" and "alarmist".
Written by Anthony North QC, the report concludes that there are "serious arguments" for further investigation into Airservices on the basis that:
- there is a culture of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment which pervades the Airservices Australia workforce
- the management of Airservices Australia has failed to effectively address the workplace culture of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment
- Airservices' workplace culture of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment has negative effects on the health and safety of the employees as well as impacts on productivity and could endanger the safety of air navigation and the lives of air travellers.
According to the report, a YouGov Galaxy Survey of more than 500 Airservices employees conducted in January revealed widespread bullying and sexual harassment in Airservices. The report also cites Airservices' own February 2019 reports on workplace culture at Sydney, Bankstown and Camden.
North reports that the survey showed almost 50% of respondents and more than 75% of female respondents said that they had experienced bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment while working at Airservices, with managers often the perpetrators.
“Airservices have for far too long tolerated a systematic culture of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment by condoning the behaviour, often promoting the perpetrators and disciplining an employee who complains," Civil Air Executive Secretary Peter McGuane said.
“Civil Air calls on the Minister and the Morrison government to urgently step up and direct a full and independent enquiry. The Minister must direct an inquiry into the workplace culture of Airservices be undertaken and that any recommendations be implemented.
“Employees lives are being ruined by the culture of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment that Airservices have allowed and the government must intervene stop this.
"It is noteworthy that Airservices does not have a specific sexual harassment policy. Having a sexual harassment policy is entry level – Airservices have failed to reach even that level. This employer has known about this culture for many years but it still refuses to change.”
The North Report also recommends that a wide-ranging inquiry was needed into the causes of the existing culture, to be carried out with co-operation from the board of Airservices, but acknowleges that the service provider may be reluctant to assist.
"The pervasive nature of the Airservices Australia workplace culture of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment and the fact that it has been evident for such a prolonged period suggests that the management of Airservices Australia may upon investigation be found to have been primarily responsible for the existence of that culture," the report states.
"Those factors may make it unlikely that management and the Board of Airservices Australia will co-operate and collaborate in any such inquiry."
Airservices hit back at the report's accusation that workplace culture is effecting air safety.
"Airservices unequivocally rejects the suggestion from Anthony North QC that its workplace culture is negatively affecting safety," an Airservices statement said. "Airservices’ safety performance is demonstrably among the best in the world and always improving. There is no factual basis for these false and alarmist claims.
"When our safety performance is compared against our peers, we compare exceptionally well.
"Airservices has a strong reporting culture and systems in place to manage workplace bullying and harassment complaints when they do arise. Any allegation is treated seriously and investigated thoroughly. Firm action, up to and including termination, is taken for behaviour that breaches our strict code of conduct."