Workers lodge first complaint against union under new bullying laws.

In the first action against a union under the federal workplace bullying laws, three workers have applied for stop bullying orders against the MUA and international port operator DP World, which employs the three general stevedores at the company’s West Swanson Dock ¬terminal in Melbourne.

Employees defecating in the boots of colleagues, urinating on helmets and overalls and making expletive-laden threats against “laggers” and “dogs” are among explosive allegations by three waterfront employees taking ¬unprecedented bullying action against the Maritime Union of Australia.

In documents lodged with the Fair Work Commission, the workers have ¬accused MUA members and officials of engaging in bullying, ¬including “aggressive and intimidating ¬conduct” they claim has left them fearing for their safety at work.



“I have seen fights in the workplace, employees’ overalls put in toilet bowls, helmets, boots and overalls urinated on, and even someone’s boots were …. in,” said one worker in a statement supporting his application.

“There is a prison-type mentality here where you don’t lag — tell what happened — which has allowed these bullies to carry on with their atrocious behaviour.

“The worst names to be called in our workplace is a lagger, dog, or scab. I have been directly named as a scab and a dog.”

While neither the MUA or DP World would comment publicly on the embarrassing claims, the union’s national secretary, Paddy Crumlin, and the company’s chief executive, Paul Scurrah, have recently signed a joint statement, saying that workplace harassment, bullying and violence is -unacceptable and “generally unlawful”. It is understood the company is seeking to introduce a no-swearing policy at its terminals.

The federal bullying laws, which were first proposed by Labor and give the Fair Work Commission jurisdiction over complaints of bullying in workplaces, were introduced in January. Outside the claim against the MUA, however, the only actions have been brought against companies and individuals.

Two of the workers told the commission they were subjected to ongoing bullying and harassment at work and on social media, including being described on Facebook by the union’s deputy branch secretary as “laggers”.

In her statement, one worker alleges that on November 18 last year that an MUA official walked behind her on a terminal stairwell and said “don’t fall down the stairs and tell everyone that I pushed you”.

She claimed another union member indicated that she should have kept quiet: “You know how this works. We are going to stick together. You are on your own. The only time we will do anything for you is if you are being raped or shot at…”

She was also allegedly told by the union’s assistant national secretary that “I can’t guarantee your safety in the workplace, you should pursue mediation”.

The employee said she had detailed the allegations to senior company executives at various meetings but the company had failed to provide a comprehensive response.

A commission full bench will this week consider whether the alleged comments made about the workers on Facebook fall within its bullying jurisdiction.

Last month, the commission refused an MUA application to suppress details of the bullying case. It is understood the three workers are on special paid leave.

One of the workers said: “I love my job and I want to go back to work as soon as possible.

“I want to go back to a job where I can be safe and where ¬others can be safe too.

“Everyone has the right to work in a safe workplace, where this behaviour is not accepted where it is dealt with when it ¬occurs.

“I want others at my workplace to know that it is OK to stand up and have the courage to speak up as well.”

iHR emphasises that it is important to remember that all employers must guarantee a safe working environment for all on site. This includes prevention not only of downward bullying but horizontal bullying by colleagues and other stakeholders such as union officials.

Creating a constructive, safe and lawful workplace culture will reduce the risk of physical and psychological injury to employees and the possibility of costly and time-consuming referrals to the Fair Work Commission or State authorities.

Well-documented policies and procedures in areas such as grievance, harassment and bullying are also tangible evidence that your organisation has taken reasonable steps to minimise business risks and unlawful practice or behaviour.

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