Airservices Australia says it will set up an independent review of its workplace culture after a survey of its air traffic controllers found claims of bullying and sexual harassment.
The country’s air traffic manager said former sex discrimination commissioner Elizabeth Broderick would conduct the “broad and independent review” of its workforce culture.
“We will share the findings of this review and any recommendations will be adopted to ensure that Airservices offers a safe, diverse and inclusive workplace for all of our employees,” Airservices said in a statement on Tuesday.
Airservices was responding to the publication of a report prepared by former Federal Court judge Anthony North, which included responses from a survey of about 500 Airservices employees in January.
The survey, conducted by YouGov Galaxy and commissioned by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers for air traffic controllers’ union Civil Air Operations Officers’ Association, found half of all respondents – and three quarters of female respondents – said that they had experienced bullying, discrimination or sexual harassment while working at Airservices.
“It is evident that bullying, discrimination, and sexual harassment are features of the experience of many employees of Airservices and that they are not confident that management condemns the behaviour and acts effectively to prevent or stop it,” North said in the report, according to a joint statement from Civil Air and Maurice Blackburn on Tuesday.
“The fact that such behaviour has been documented as occurring over many years and at various Airservices worksites allows for the conclusion that bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment is part of the way things are done at Airservices, that they are part of its culture, and that they are not isolated or aberrant occurrences.”
“Of particular concern in the air navigation control environment, in which Airservices operates, is the potential for the poor workplace culture to have effects which compromise the safety of aircraft and passengers.”
Airservices said it rejected the suggestion in the report that its workplace culture was negatively affecting safety.
Instead, the government-owned corporation said its safety performance was “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 said.
Airservices said its annual employee engagement surveys had found “some areas of our workforce are concerned about workplace behaviours and how effectively they are managed when they arise”.
“We have been working with our people to address this, and have initiated some key improvement actions; most importantly enhancing essential people leadership skills in our highly specialised operational workforce,” Airservices said.
Civil Air Operations Officers’ Association executive secretary Peter McGuane called on federal government to “urgently step up” commence a full and independent enquiry.
“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,” McGuane said.
“This employer has known about this culture for many years but it still refuses to change.”