Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 184..
MR GENTLEMAN (continuing):
Airport. She was marshalling passengers on the tarmac on a very hot summer's day-hot summer's day, hot tarmac and no break. After six hours on the job, despite repeated requests, Astrid could not leave her station to get water, to go to the toilet or to take a meal break. When relief finally came, Astrid expressed her own relief.
What was the response from her supervisor? Essentially: "Tough luck. We are short-staffed. Deal with it."Astrid, like most of us, was distressed by his attitude. More so, she was concerned with the practices of her employer. Astrid made a complaint. Did she receive a response to this serious complaint? No, she heard nothing. Concerned by the lack of response, Astrid contacted her boss directly. And what was her supervisor's response? Astrid was accused of lying, of refusing an offered break and of exaggerating the whole issue. When she refuted these claims, Astrid was informed that the matter would be discussed at a later date. But, when she returned to work, instead of a discussion with her supervisor as promised, Astrid was called into the office and informed that a number of allegations had been made about her behaviour and that she was required to answer a number of questions.
I just want to make three points before I continue. One, Astrid's employer did not provide her with her legally entitled break, on a day when the temperature was probably above 30 degrees. Two, Astrid followed the contract disputes procedure and raised the matter formally. Three, Astrid, before any inquiry that included her had taken place about her issues, was accused of lying. So here is a woman who has done the right thing by her employer by reporting an unlawful act, who is accused of lying and, on returning to work, is marched into the supervisor's office and faced with a series of allegations. Astrid, within her rights, asked that she be informed of the allegations. She also asked that a witness be present. When this was refused, Astrid informed her supervisor she would not be answering any questions and started to leave the room. How did her supervisor respond? She said that, if Astrid left the room, she would be sacked.
Again Astrid informed her employer that she would not answer any questions until a witness was present. Again she was informed of her potential sacking. Finally, a compromise was met. Astrid contacted her husband, and Astrid, with her husband, Bill, present acting as a witness, heard the allegations. Astrid, as she had previously done when accused of lying, refuted the claims. But, despite this, and despite no evidence to support these allegations, her employer saw fit to transfer Astrid to a different section of the organisation.
Due to health reasons-reasons known to her supervisor-it would be very difficult for Astrid to work in this new section. So Astrid made a decision. She decided that she was not going to be bullied any more and she resigned. I say "decision", though in truth Astrid had little choice: she could choose to stay with an employer that refuses to acknowledge fundamental rights to breaks; she could choose to stay with an employer who, instead of acknowledging these problems, fabricated allegations to stop her pursuing them; or she could stay at a place where she felt threatened. What choice did Astrid have?
I raise this horrible story because I believe it is my responsibility to continually point out to the opposition the fact that there are bad employers out there who place profit before the health and safety of workers. And I believe it is also my responsibility to point out