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Two wharfies walking the plank

Bullying & HarassmentNovember 10, 2014

Two wharfies walking the plank (Last Updated On: November 10, 2014)

A dock worker alleged to have grabbed her colleague around the neck, has been reinstated after a disciplinary investigation into the assault was deemed “rather hollow”.

PSL Services Pty Ltd struggled with an investigation into the assault due to a ‘code of silence’ within the wharfie work culture. The motive for the confrontation began over a two way radio conversation. The allegedly assaulted male colleague bad mouthed another female dock worker and she had told him to “shut the f**k up” in her defence.

The workers then confronted each other in the meal room and this is when the female was reported to have grabbed her colleague around the neck. An investigation was drawn out by the HR manager of the wharf, however the investigation was hindered because the witnesses who were in the meal room at the time vowed a code of silence, which is an unwritten acceptance within the ranks of wharfies. The HR manager struggled with statements from the witnesses who recalled “I didn’t see or hear anything”.

In the investigation the HR manager did not provide the female colleague with the opportunity to recall the matter. The investigation was not open, frank or honest. The females account of what happened was not included in the investigation, she claimed that she had also been assaulted and harassed by the co-worker in the past and she had just merely brushed past her colleagues shoulder, in her view she was just ‘fooling around’.

With nobody backing up the female’s side of the story she was suspended. The wharfie’s employers only considered the HR managers’ report which had not established a valid reason for her dismissal. The HR manager had never previously conducted a disciplinary investigation or any other allegations of physical assault in a workplace. The Fair Work Commission found that the failure of senior management to recognise the seriousness of the issue resulted in the investigator’s findings and recommendations to be invalid.

The FWC judge went on to say that if PSL Services Pty Ltd “been given proper legal advice then this case would not have ended up in arbitral proceedings”. The colleague was reinstated because there was ‘no sound or cognitive reason why she should not’.

If you require legal advice in disciplinary proceedings or are struggling with an investigation within your workplace call Employsure today on 1300 651 415. Employsure helps you in every way to resolve and investigate any employment issue. With 24/7 legal advice, tailored documentation and support you have all your employment bases covered.

*Information sourced via the Workplace Express website.

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