John Hunter Hospital support staff take a stand over bullying

SPEAKING UP: John Hunter Hospital support staff protest allegations of bullying during a strike on Thursday. The Industrial Relations Commission was forced to intervene. Picture: Marina Neil

SPEAKING UP: John Hunter Hospital support staff protest allegations of bullying during a strike on Thursday. The Industrial Relations Commission was forced to intervene. Picture: Marina Neil

BULLYING is “rife” inside John Hunter Hospital and it needs to be fixed.

That was the message to Hunter New England Health on Thursday, as the hospital’s support staff walked off the job to protest what they said was a culture of threats and intimidation inside the hospital.

About 100 support staff held a rally outside the hospital on Thursday morning because, they said, they were at “breaking point”.

According to the Health Services Union, the central issue is management in one of the hospital’s departments, and the treatment of one man whose employment was terminated four months ago “because he stood up against being intimidated”.

“As a result, he was labelled the intimidator and it unfolded from there,” HSU organiser Michael Kearns said.

That man lodged an unfair dismissal claim with the Industrial Relations Commission, but declined to speak publicly on Thursday because the matter was ongoing.

Health Services Union organiser Michael Kearns addresses workers. Picture: Marina Neil

Health Services Union organiser Michael Kearns addresses workers. Picture: Marina Neil

Workers at the rally said they wanted the man to keep his job, and vowed not to return to work to “send a message” to management.

The Industrial Relations Commission ordered the staff back to work at noon.

Despite that, Mr Kearns praised workers for their “courage” to walk out.

The union said it had sent multiple letters to authorities about the allegations, but these had been “ignored”.

“The complaints were around inappropriate behaviour. They have been persistent in this particular department,” Mr Kearns said.

“The members have had enough, essentially.

“All these people want to do is do their job and do it well … they can’t do that when they are continually being ignored, downtrodden and treated inappropriately by their management.”

John Hunter Hospital support staff vote to remain on strike. Picture: Marina Neil

John Hunter Hospital support staff vote to remain on strike. Picture: Marina Neil

Workers, who spoke to the Newcastle Herald on the condition of anonymity, said they felt intimidated by management.

One said employees were “targeted” for airing concerns.

“It’s retribution,” the worker said.

In a short statement, John Hunter Hospital general manager Debbie Bradley did not deny bullying within a hospital department was being investigated.

“John Hunter Hospital and Hunter New England Health take all complaints seriously. Bullying and harassment is not tolerated,” she said.

Ms Bradley declined to comment on the unfair dismissal claim as it was still before the Industrial Relations Commission.

“We hope to reach a resolution soon,” she said.

Both the health service and the union said there was minimal disruption at the hospital on Thursday.

Do you know more? Email brodie.owen@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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