Since the horror I experienced working in mining, which left me mentally burnt out and physically drained to the point of being a shell, and the fact I was not mute about the crap I was going through (cowering in the face of bullies will never be an option for me), I have had a lot of people contact me regarding similar issues they are going through in their workplaces.
Employee exploitation, poor workplace health and safety, bullying, harassment, intimidation, both passive and direct, is rife within Australian workplaces across a myriad of industries.
From event management, to trade apprenticeships, to retail, to mining, to government, to health, to security etc. the revolting situations workers are put in is never ending and yet the amount of workers who are union members, who know their rights, have read the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and other related Acts and Regulations and utilise organisations such as Fair Work Australia, Fair Work Commission and their state Legal Aid is minimal.
So many workers in Australia (I hesitate to say the majority because I don’t have the data to back it up but my gut says I wouldn’t be wrong) have no idea that they don’t have to be walked all over by their workplace and actually do have legal rights and avenues to explore. So many people don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ because they have kids, mortgages, car repayments etc. so they just keep letting themselves be trampled until it completely takes its toll and they have to quit due to severe health issues such as depression, anxiety, physical injuries etc.
That’s what happened to me.
Even I was conditioned to believe I was at the mercy of my boss and no matter how out of control and outrageous my workload got, no matter how many hours of unpaid overtime I did (I was on a salary, you see, so it made it easier for them to flog me out), no matter what disgusting things were said to me behind closed doors I could take it or quit. Even my own sister, whose husband worked for the same mine, was brainwashed and subdued into believing that the mine was ‘union free’ when anyone with a speck of knowledge knows that under Australian, federal law no workplace has the right to be ‘union free’.
So this is exactly why I am interested in industrial relations and employment law and why I applied to law school and will be picking the subject as one of my electives (the other will be environmental law). I am sick of workers being treated like shit. People have the right to go to work and not be used and abused as if they were a disposable commodity to be flogged out and then binned. People have the right to work in a healthy and safe workplace. People shouldn’t have to quit their jobs because their workload is so ridiculous that after a couple of years it has ended with them suffering from major fatigue, anxiety and depression.
So I say to anyone out there who is stuck in the workplace from hell; join a reputable union, read the workplace legislation in your country, go to your GP and ask them to refer you to a psychologist or a psychiatrist and say it is for workplace stress. If you have to claim hardship on your expenses/loans in order to quit and save your sanity while you look for a job then do it. Call what ever workplace ombudsman you have in your country, call legal aid etc. but get yourself educated and get the support you need in order to prevent your health from deteriorating to a dangerous point.
Make a workers compensation claim for work related stress if you can, put all correspondence with your bully/bullies in emails/writing and make copies/back your emails up. Don’t let them trap you in a room alone so they can bully you without witnesses. If it is legal to do in your country (as it is in Qld, Australia) record conversations you are a part of when speaking to your bully so you don’t get pulled into the ‘he said/she said’ garbage that bullies love to try.
The more workers who stand up for their rights and refuse to be belittled and flogged out with unreasonable workloads the better it will be for all of us. When I think of the young people who have committed suicide (Brodie Panlock and Alec Meikle are the two names that come to mind) because they were tormented in their workplaces to the point they felt they had no way out it breaks my heart but also spurs me on.
Once I complete my employment law elective I plan on starting my booklet targeted at 15-25 year olds, but anyone will be able to read it and get some benefit and solace from it, on the different experiences I, and others I know, have been through, workplace rights within Australia and how to survive mentally/physically and literally (financially) until another job or situation can be organised.
Employee fear is the fuel that workplace bullies thrive on and the only way to diminish employee fear is through education and solidarity.
Below are some helpful links for workers within Australia-
Fair Work Ombudsman-
Fair Work Commission-
Qld Legal Aid-