28 July 2012

VIDEO STORY: Bullies in the Workplace

Source TodayTonight

Workplace bullying is a major issue in Australia with studies have shown it is costing the Australian economy $36 billion a year.


Now a Flight Centre franchise has landed at the centre of a fight over how its staff have been treated.
Three out of five staff from the same workplace resigned in just six months, and all are blaming one woman - their former boss.

The then manager of a travel agency in the Melbourne suburb of Frankston was Kelly Gallasch. She’s been accused of bullying behaviour by former staff members, including Richard Barnes.

Barnes says Gallasch told him to clean toilets, ordered him around and swore at him – “just to torment me until I'd lash out.”

Now Barnes is taking legal action against Flight Centre. He'll claim that he was a whistleblower on bullying problems at the travel giant, and under the Fair Work Act he was meant to be protected from victimisation.

In documents filed in the Federal Court Barnes claims his ex-boss made comments about him that would make tradies blush.

Another worker, Carol, has backed up Barnes’s claims. “I was constantly belittled in front of staff,” she said. Carol claims she received similar treatment to Barnes. “It was quite relentless,”

Amanda, another ex-worker who has come forward, says “I just didn’t want to get up and go to work.
“Basically she'd be increasing my workload so I’d feel more pressured and I’d quit my job,” Amanda added. And these employees are far from alone. Across the nation, bullying has reared its ugly head time and time again, and instances of workplace bullying are troubling.

It's estimated one in four people will experience bullying at some point in their work life, and seven per cent of suicides can be linked to workplace bullying according to a US report. Brodie Panlock is one of those victims; the nineteen-year-old killed herself after being bullied by three men at her workplace. Her tragic death led to Brodie's Law - a change to the Crimes Act that introduces ten year prison terms for bullying.

Psychologist Evelyn Field says bullying is “absolutely soul destroying. Being the victim of bullying changes your life forever.” Field believes bullying is often a cultural issue. “It’s really about management who are not stepping in and stopping it,” she said. As for the Flight Centre case, the travel giant says the matter was investigated at the time. They maintain they acted appropriately and deny the various allegations, which they say will be vigorously defended in court.

Flight Centre response statement

Our comment is similar to the comments we made when Maurice Blackburn issued its two previous press releases on this matter.

As this is now before the courts, neither Student Flights nor Flight Centre Limited can comment in detail.

The matter was investigated and action was taken against several people when the complaint was received last year.

Action was also taken against Mr Barnes, after concerns were raised about his behaviour in the workplace.

The company considers it acted appropriately and denies various allegations that have been made against it, including suggestions that Mr Barnes was forced out after he raised concerns.

It will vigorously defend the case.

Allegations of this nature are taken seriously and policies and procedures are in place to prevent and discipline such behaviour.

In addition, the company has a whistleblowers' facility that staff can use to report any alleged wrongdoing.

A Federal Government inquiry into workplace bullying is currently running in order to see if legislation needs to be changed. If you have experienced workplace bullying you can put in a submission at this website.