Fears bullying will increase in public service

Pressure on public servants from budget cuts and increasing workloads could lead to a rise in workplace bullying, the public sector union fears.

The Community and Public Sector Union has voiced the concern to a parliamentary inquiry into workplace bullying.

The federal government made provision in the May budget for 4200 full-time equivalent jobs to be cut from the public service this financial year.

The CPSU said in a submission to the House of Representatives committee inquiry that high workloads could ''breed stress'' which was borne out in the form of bullying behaviour. Areas in which this could occur included public service units which dealt with policy advice to the government.

''In these workplaces pressure arising from budget cuts, increasing workloads, increased hours [often in the form of unpaid overtime] and reduction in training opportunities can lead to difficult working relationships and a rise in bullying-type behaviour,'' the submission said.

''The pressure on managers to deliver outcomes in these circumstances leads to stressful situations for all in the workplace.''


The union said bullying was raised as an issue most often in workplaces with high workloads, strict controls on time and narrow performance targets, such as service-delivery agencies and call centres.

In 2010-11, 114 Commonwealth public servants were investigated for harassment or bullying and 46 were found to have breached the service's code of conduct. In the same year, the Human Rights Commission received 1564 complaints about workplace bullying.

More than 17 per cent of Commonwealth employees reported experiencing bullying or harassment in the past 12 months in a survey undertaken for the Australian Public Service Commission earlier this year.

In 2009, there were 29 reports of bullying in the ACT public service of which 20 were investigated and four substantiated.

In another submission to the inquiry, ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said reducing the incidence and severity of bullying in the workplace would be most effective if the same behaviours were simultaneously addressed in families and communities.

''What is occurring in our workplaces reflects broader social standards of behaviour that are experienced in our schools, community groups, sporting teams and homes,'' Ms Gallagher said.

The ACT was taking part in the development of a national code of practice on workplace bullying through Safe Work Australia.

Federal work health regulator Comcare said the cost of claims arising from workplace bullying across the Public Service had risen from $27.4 million to $46.3 million over the past three years.

''These trends are not sustainable,'' the agency warned in its submission.


Comment are now closed