Dozens of Airservices Australia employees have been investigated and some even sacked for bullying and sexual harassment.
Nine people have left the organisation since June, including four managers.
A review by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick uncovered the misconduct and a “toxic” culture at the organisation.
Safety of air travel at risk
Airservices Australia is a government-owned organisation responsible for providing a number of aviation services, including air traffic controllers and airport firefighters.
Former Federal Court judge, Tony North QC, conducted an initial investigation after reports of serious misconduct at:
- Melbourne Airport;
- Sydney Airport;
- Brisbane Airport;
- in addition to airports such as Bankstown.
In fact, Justice North found there is a “serious argument” that the culture of the Airservices workforce is putting the safety of air travel in Australia at risk.
“AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL HAS A TOXIC CULTURE OF BULLYING AND HARASSMENT”
Lord of the Flies
As a result of Justice North’s findings, Commissioner Broderick commenced an inquiry and released her damning report in May.
It found one in two Airservices workers experienced bullying, while one in five experienced sexual harassment.
One worker said: “The culture here is extremely poor. It’s a boys’ club. If you are not in with the right people, you’re pushed aside”.
Another said: “The culture [in this Tower] is totally toxic. It’s like Lord of the Flies or Animal Farm.”
Dozens of Airservices Australia staff investigated
Airservices Australia chief executive Jason Harfield confirmed to a Senate Estimates hearing this week:
- it had launched 50 code of conduct investigations, with 13 currently in assessment mode and 12 still under investigation;
- 3 people currently under investigation for bullying are senior managers – another five are managers;
- 1 of the 4 people currently under investigation for sexual harassment is in a senior position within the organisation.
Organisation committed to change
As a result of the review, Harfield promised widespread cultural changes.
“I have stated to the entire organisation that I take full responsibility for not only the culture the organisation currently has, but also for addressing it and moving it forward.”
Airservices has faced allegations of bullying, harassment and discrimination for decades.
In 2010, a female worker sued the organisation for $2 million after a manager allegedly told her he had ”a coat hanger in the back of his car” when she told him of her pregnancy.
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