Bullying and sexism at air traffic control company Airservices Australia is so severe it poses a threat to workers’ psychological safety, a damning new report has found.
The report by former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick found Airservices Australia has distinct areas that require “immediate action and reform”.
“The levels of bullying, in particular, as well as sexual harassment are unacceptable. They need to be addressed as a matter of urgency,” the report found.
“Similarly urgent action is required to address the very low levels of reporting, particularly in relation to sexual harassment. It is clear there are work environments where people do not feel safe to speak up or to call out non-inclusive behaviour.”
Broderick’s report came after another report into the culture at Airservices Australia by former Federal Court Judge the Honourable Anthony North QC. That report, commissioned by the union, delivered similar findings.
The report said Airservices has a “culture that is not psychologically safe”.
And, Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, which represents the union, said the culture could even pose a “serious risk” to passenger safety.
Employee testimony included in the report described it as a “boys’ club” and “culture underpinned by fear… where bullying is normalised”.
The report calls for the establishment of a Cultural Reform Board with a goal of driving cultural change across the organisation.
“The findings provide an opportunity for Airservices to improve its culture to create an organisation where all employees can thrive and progress,” Broderick said.
“Whilst a number of the quotes and survey data are of concern, the recommendations provide a solid platform for leaders and employees to strengthen organisational culture and capability.”
However, the executive secretary of the Civil Air trade union Peter McGuane said more needed to be done.
“Members feel let down. The current management team has committed time and time again to resolve the issues and there is a real risk that the new ‘action plan’ to address the recommendations may be little more than another hollow commitment to change,” McGuane said.
“To effectively address the broken culture, senior management must be held to account. It is essential that the composition of senior management change.”
In a statement, Airservices Australia said it will implement the report’s recommendations “in full”.
“Airservices has zero tolerance for all forms of workplace bullying and harassment. Our staff are required to strictly comply with the organisation’s Code of Conduct, which explicitly prohibits all forms of bullying and harassment,” CEO Jason Harfield said.
“Breaches of the Code of Conduct result in disciplinary action, including dismissal. I encourage anyone who experiences conduct of this nature to report it immediately.”
Chairman John Weber added that the report identified problems with culture that required “urgent attention”.
“The Board is committed to leading cultural change at Airservices. By implementing the report’s recommendations Airservices will build a stronger, respectful and more diverse organisation, better able to take on the challenges ahead of us.