‘Safety fears at overtime row firm’
September 12, 2006
THE Melbourne company [owned by another, South African-based company which is, in turn, owned by a TNC] that docked 56 employees a week’s pay for not working overtime has been served with eight notices for alleged breaches of health and safety laws.
WorkSafe Victoria, a division of the state’s WorkCover Authority, also found that bullying was likely to occur at Heinemann Electric, in the outer suburb of Mulgrave.
Unions are considering Federal Court action after the electrical parts company refused to pay employees for a week’s work. The company said the federal workplace laws allowed it not to pay the workers, who imposed the bans in support of an enterprise bargaining claim.
Documents show WorkSafe has issued eight separate notices since November last year instructing Heinemann Electric to improve health and safety conditions.
WorkSafe cited a range of concerns, including switchboards being tested in an “uncontrolled environment” and “inadequate control measures” relating to asbestos. Electrical cords and appliances were being used without ensuring there was no risk of electric shock or electrocution.
The WorkSafe inspector criticised the “inadequate” emergency evacuation procedures and the fact that health and safety meetings had not been held for eight months.
WorkSafe issued notices saying it reasonably believed the company was in breach of occupational health and safety laws. The notices led to a further inspection on January 30. Some issues had been addressed but the company had still not complied with four of the notices.
On July 28 WorkSafe issued another improvement notice after finding that bullying was likely to occur at the workplace.
WorkSafe found the company did not have appropriate policies or procedures to deal with bullying; that there was uncertainty about job requirements; and that workplace communication was poor. Heinemann was instructed to develop a no-bullying policy and instigate a confidential reporting system and an adequate system to deal with bullying behaviour.
Heinemann general manager Richard Ross denied bullying had occurred. He said WorkSafe had given the company extra time to address the issues.
Dean Mighell, Victorian secretary of the Electrical Trades Union, claimed employees were “frightened” of management.
The workers imposed protected industrial action in the form of overtime bans from August 22 before stopping work for 24 hours on August 25.
In a statement last week, Mr Ross said the company wanted to negotiate with employees about what hours they worked, but the union wanted to control the level of hours.
But Mr Mighell said the company was trying to “average out” working hours.
[Hat tip : Dr. Cam Sexenheimer]