By David Killick
Several people with personal experience of bullying contacted The Mercury to tell their stories after the problem was highlighted at a parliamentary committee last week.
Unions Tasmania chief Kevin Harkins told a Federal Government inquiry that current laws were no match for a new breed of “workplace psychopaths”.
One victim said his career was destroyed at the hands of an established bullying culture when he took a job at a union.
“I was only there for four or five weeks and I noticed there were other employees there whose positions were being made unbearable,” he said.
“The female colleague who started with me was driven to tears.”
The man said it “tore at [him]” that at the time he did not stand up because he feared for his own job.
“In a union I looked after myself, which is counter to my work ethic of fairness and the collective principle,” he said.
The man said the bullying and discrimination then moved on to him, with a series of humiliating comments, staff favoritism towards others and targeted micro-managing that defied logic.
“A subsequent physical threat was an indication that it was time to get out at all costs,” he said.
“Even the management body refused to answer or even acknowledge the initial grievance, despite the employee at the time experiencing a family bereavement.”
Eventually the man said he took stress-related leave and was forced to rely on worker’s compensation.
“It’s ended up with the Anti-Discrimination Commission and I got a settlement, on the condition that I walk away and don’t say anything,” he said.
After paying his legal and medical bills, he ended up with little money and no job.
“I did have a short-term contract position shortly after, but the personal toll of the ongoing case impeded on my confidence and the ostracism by some, though not all, who were once colleagues was hard to deal with.”
The man said he was one of a group of about a dozen former workers at the union who had formed a “survivor’s club” who met collectively and individually to support each other.
Another victim worked as a volunteer at a charity organization.
Her husband said she was singled out after raising concerns about cash handling.
“She was attacked verbally in front of other volunteers by the manager, and harangued publicly for some 10 minutes, despite repeated requests to cease.
“Some very harsh things were said to my wife in an apparent attempt to silence and humiliate her.”