Culture of bullying 'will last for years'

Sydney Morning Herald

Friday February 12, 2010

Louise Hall

IT WILL will take years to stamp out the culture of bullying and harassment within the Ambulance Service, despite more than $1 million being spent on establishing "healthy workplace" strategies, the state's top health bureaucrats say.In response to a damning parliamentary inquiry in October 2008 that found ambulance executives were a "nepotistic old boys' club" who swept claims of bullying and harassment under the carpet for 10 years, reforms are being introduced to the service's 4200 employees.The commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, Justice David Ipp, said unless fundamental factors were changed, such as the service's hierarchical structure, male domination, and history of promotions by favour not merit, any improvement would be short-lived. "Unless the service addresses these core problems, we believe it will have difficulty successfully implementing the inquiry's recommendations," he wrote in a submission.But the Director-General of NSW Health, Debora Picone, yesterday said staff now had a wider range of mechanisms to discuss and report grievances confidentially and management had clearer guidelines on what to do in responding to them."We can't achieve cultural change in an organisation of this standing with a 115-year history through a single training course in a year; it is going to be a long-term process," Professor Picone said.An audit by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu in November found the service had completed 16 of the inquiry's 18 recommendations. But the Health Services Union's director of operations, Dennis Ravlich, said feedback from members was that "nothing much has changed" and there was "continuing and burning anger".A phone survey of 381 HSU members found while 96 per cent had attended the mandatory four-hour "respectful workplace training" program, 65 per cent said bullying had not been reduced and 66 per cent identified no improvement in harassment.

© 2010 Sydney Morning Herald

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