1st November, 2021
Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Review into Workplace Equality in Ambulance Victoria
The VAU welcomes the release of Volume 1 of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) Final Report of the Independent Review into Ambulance Victoria (AV).
The VAU provided a detailed 80 page submission drawn from 164 written submissions provided by our members. We also received an enormous amount of anecdotal evidence from members and delegates and met with VEOHRC on nearly 25 occasions to provide this information. We thank all of our members who took the time to bring their stories to the VAU.
The Report is available to read and has clearly captured the extreme levels of harm and distress caused by incivility, disrespect, discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and victimisation. It makes for extremely harrowing reading and members should be aware of the emotional and psychological impact of reading its content especially if you have past experience.
Many of the examples captured as an individual’s story, mirror matters that the VAU are assisting with today. We are still regularly dealing with discrimination issues including paramedics with parental responsibilities living in small country towns without access to childcare, put through hostile roster negotiations. In the last three weeks we have spoken with over a dozen members who are dealing with workplace discrimination and bullying, including paramedics who are not getting support when returning from parental leave, who are unable to finish shift on time when they have childcare responsibilities, and whose requests for flexible roster arrangements to accommodate caring responsibilities and disabilities have been denied. These are not past events, these are happening to our members now.
The recommendation to overhaul what is currently known as the Professional Conduct Unit (PCU) and the development of a specialised and independent Specialist Support Unit and Workplace Harm Unit is in line with one of the key outcomes that we pushed for. The PCU has had fundamental flaws, major delays on simple matters and no properly trained investigators. Reforming the PCU is long overdue. As we speak the union is supporting many members who are dealing with the (PCU). While its overhaul is positive, AV has had a long time to fix the problems and members are still suffering.
The greatest test for AV lies ahead and change will not happen overnight after the release of a single report. This is not the first report into workplace culture in AV. There have been many public reports that have not elicited lasting change.
Apologies need to be backed by tangible outcomes, otherwise it is just words. AV owes it to all the members who have suffered and been brave enough to speak out to make tangible changes and deliver robust outcomes to create a safe workplace.
Outcomes are not delivered through catchphrases and slogans. There needs to be genuine change to AV in every aspect of its operation so that employee welfare is put before its KPIs. Organisations, like AV, should not be exempt from meeting legal and regulatory requirements because they are an emergency service.
The wrong behaviours have been modelled for a long-time breeding intolerance and disrespect through the whole organisation. If senior people can’t model the right behaviours, then they should not be in the organisation.
This is likely to be a challenging read for many so please be aware of support services available through 1800 MANERS. Members are encouraged read the VEOHRC report when you are ready to and to provide feedback.