A savage report says Airservices Australia has allowed a culture of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment to thrive.
The report, commissioned by air traffic control union Civil Air through Maurice Blackburn Lawyers has been dubbed “false” and “alarmist” by Airservices, which runs airport control towers and other facilities across the country.
The report finds “serious arguments” for further investigation into Airservices, in particular the alleged culture of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment which pervades the company’s workforce.
It also said Airservices Australia management has failed to effectively address the culture of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment, and should be investigated.
The report finds that the highly negative culture could harm the health and safety of the employees, damage productivity and endanger the safety of air navigation and the lives of air travellers.
The report includes a survey of over 500 Airservices employees, which reveals widespread reports of bullying and sexual harassment.
Over 75 per cent of female respondents said they experienced bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment while working at Airservices, often perpetrated by managers.
“Airservices have for far too long tolerated a systematic culture of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment by condoning the behaviour, often promoting the perpetrators and disciplining an employee who complains,” Civil Air Executive Secretary Peter McGuane said.
“Civil Air calls on the Minister and the Morrison government to urgently step up and direct a full and independent enquiry. The Minister must direct an inquiry into the workplace culture of Airservices be undertaken and that any recommendations be implemented.
“Employees’ lives are being ruined by the culture of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment that Airservices have allowed and the government must intervene stop this.
"It is noteworthy that Airservices does not have a specific sexual harassment policy. Having a sexual harassment policy is entry level – Airservices have failed to reach even that level. This employer has known about this culture for many years but it still refuses to change.”
The report calls for a wide-ranging inquiry into the causes of the culture, but acknowledges that Airservices itself may be reluctant to assist.
“The pervasive nature of the Airservices Australia workplace culture of bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment and the fact that it has been evident for such a prolonged period suggests that the management of Airservices Australia may upon investigation be found to have been primarily responsible for the existence of that culture,” the report states.
“Those factors may make it unlikely that management and the Board of Airservices Australia will co-operate and collaborate in any such inquiry.”
Airservices has hit back.
“Airservices unequivocally rejects the suggestion from Anthony North QC that its workplace culture is negatively affecting safety,” an Airservices statement said.
“Airservices’ safety performance is demonstrably among the best in the world and always improving. There is no factual basis for these false and alarmist claims.
“When our safety performance is compared against our peers, we compare exceptionally well.
“Airservices has a strong reporting culture and systems in place to manage workplace bullying and harassment complaints when they do arise. Any allegation is treated seriously and investigated thoroughly. Firm action, up to and including termination, is taken for behaviour that breaches our strict code of conduct.”