Bullying behaviour in the Australian workplace is not acceptable and cannot be tolerated, a key building and construction organisation says.
Master Builders Australia says it welcomes the House Standing Committee on Education and Employment’s inquiry into workplace bullying, and has made several recommendations to help curb unacceptable conduct at work sites.
Wilhelm Harnisch, the organistion’s chief executive officer, says there is ‘no place’ for any form of bullying behaviour in the workplace.
“Every worker deserves the right to work in a safe environment, free from bullying,” he says.
The declaration follows a decision on June 1 by Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Bill Shorten to set up an inquiry into bullying in Australian workplaces.
Submissions for the inquiry, the purpose of which is to examine the nature, cause and extent of workplace bullying and consider proposals to address bullying cultures and prevent their development in the workplace, closed on June 29.
Harnisch believes three important principles should underpin the review.
First, any output must include a universally accepted definition of what constitutes bullying as the lack of such a definition at the moment creates uncertaintly and hinders effective action to curb unacceptable conduct.
Second, while there is no need for new legislation with existing work health and safety legislation provides ample scope for curbing bullying, Harnisch says the building and construction industry would welcome guidelines and education programs to help stop bullying, particularly after the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
Finally, it is imperative that the universally-adopted definition of bullying not remove the right for managers to provide frank and honest feedback.
Harnisch says it is important to make the distinction that strong management and the exercising of legitimate managerial responsibilities, such as managing poor performance, is not labelled as workplace bullying.
Harnisch says the building and construction industry is unique in that bullying behaviour can be exhibited by third parties, including union officials, as well as between individuals who work together in the same organisation.
He says the elimination of bullying behaviour on construction work sites will benefit all concerned, and that education is the key.
“More informed employers and employees can work towards creating a workplace culture and environment in which bullying and workplace harassment will not be tolerated,” Harnisch says. “Eliminating workplace bullying has the potential to improve industrial relations, workplace safety and productivity in the building and construction industry.”