Interview with Naomi Woodley, ABC AM

05 January 2012


Please read my interview on this morning's ABC AM news program.

Subjects: Industrial disputes, workplace bullying

PETER CAVE: The Federal Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten says he won't yet intervene in another dispute on the nation's waterfront.

The stevedoring company DP World says it will respond to a 24 hour strike by maritime workers at the Port of Melbourne next week by locking them out for a
further 24 hours.

Late last year Mr Shorten intervened in a dispute between the Maritime Union and the stevedoring company POAGS when it locked out workers in New South Wales and Western Australia.

Mr Shorten spoke to our political reporter, Naomi Woodley.

BILL SHORTEN: I'm not going to micro-manage every negotiation that goes on. I know that the negotiations which have disputes attract more media attention than the far greater number of negotiations which go on without disputation.

In terms of the issue between the stevedoring company and the workforce working for the stevedoring company, they've both got strongly held positions; both parties have advised that they don't think the negotiations have been exhausted yet.

At this stage no-one's indicating any desire for arbitration. So I think it's appropriate to allow people to negotiate.

NAOMI WOODLEY: You did though intervene in the POAGS dispute late last year; did you not create some sort of, or set some sort of a precedent there that, or create the expectation that you would intervene in cases like this?

BILL SHORTEN: No I think that what you've got to understand is that if parties see a value for assistance then we're able to assist. If parties believe that negotiations haven't run their full course, well you've got to respect that judgement.

NAOMI WOODLEY: Can I move to another area of your portfolio - there's significant criticism this morning of the draft code of practice on workplace bullying and it will have to be significantly re-written to take into account these concerns from all sides.

What's your understanding of what constitutes bullying in the workplace?

BILL SHORTEN: First of all there's a report in today's paper saying that from the union point of view they have one views on workplace bullying, there's a report saying that employers think that the code is too tough.

We'll just have a calm and measured look at the issue and the merits of the position. In terms of bullying, it is unacceptable. It's the disempowerment of someone in the workplace by another.
I've seen the tragic consequences of workplace bullying left unchecked which led to the suicide of a young woman in the restaurant industry a number of years ago and I think that the starting point for all interests in terms of workplace bullying is it is unacceptable.

Workplace bullying is a crime. It can't be tolerated at all. We'll work through the issues here. I have seen harder issues to sort out than this one.

NAOMI WOODLEY: There does seem to be significant concern about this draft code of practice and the definition of bullying. Is it important for all sides to have as clear a definition as possible as to what does constitute bullying, as opposed to discrimination or harassment?

BILL SHORTEN: I live in the real world and I've seen what bullying does. We're determined to get a code and an agreed standard in terms of making sure the workplace bullying is completely stamped out.

I have no doubt that we're capable of resolving the disagreements here. For me the issue isn't the disagreement. For me the issue is to make sure that workplace bullying becomes history.

PETER CAVE: And that was Bill Shorten.