Statement on bullying and harassmentThursday 01 Feb 2024
The WA Prison Officers’ Union (WAPOU) is calling for the perpetrators of bullying and harassment against prison officers to be held to account after it was revealed that the Department of Justice has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation and statutory payments.
In most cases, payments have been made or offered without the Department accepting liability.
The Department has paid out or offered $770,000 across 8 cases in the last year to current and now former prison officers who have been bullied or sexually harassed by other prison staff Bunbury Regional Prison, including superintendents and members of the senior management team.
The Department has not accepted liability, or issued apologies for the treatment of staff, many of whom have resigned due to the bullying and harassment they faced, while perpetrators have been allowed to continue working and in some cases are being promoted.
WAPOU Secretary Andy Smith said bullying and harassment of prison officers must not be allowed to continue, and the perpetrators must face appropriate consequences.
“Bullying and sexual harassment is unacceptable at any workplace, and prisons are no different,” he said.
“Everyone has the right to go to work without the risk of being bullied or harassed by their colleagues and leaders.
“When incidents do occur, the complaints system should be clear and it should result in a thorough investigation.
“If anyone is found to have engaged in bullying or harassment, they should be removed from their position and the fact that the Department of Justice has not followed this process and removed perpetrators is beyond disappointing.
“Prison officers already have a high-risk job working with WA’s most dangerous people. They deserve to be better protected by management and by the Department.”
Mr Smith said this latest round of payouts, look a lot like hush money as they follow on from ongoing WorkSafe investigations and a WorkSafe improvement notice that stated bullying and harassment was occurring at the prison.
“We are aware that the managers who received the improvement notice were given two extensions to deal with the issue, yet have still failed to follow through with the required improvements,” he said.
“Additionally, there has been at least one public prosecution relating to this that we are aware of.”
WAPOU is providing support to members who have experienced bullying and harassment at work and is encouraging anyone in need of assistance to contact them on 08 9272 3222 or email@example.com.
MEDIA CONTACT: Amy Blom firstname.lastname@example.org 0431 685 372