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Workplace bullying is preventable

10 October 2018

‘Workplace bullying is preventable’: US advocate challenges PM, Government

A high-profile US advocate for victims of workplace bullying says New Zealand has what it takes to prevent workplace bullying.

Dr Gary Namie, founder of the American Workplace Bullying Institute in Washington, has written an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and to all of New Zealand ahead of his keynote address at CultureShift 2018 at Te Papa, Wellington, on October 24 and 25. Culture Shift is New Zealand’s first ‘Action, not just words’ anti-workplace bullying summit.

Justice Minister Andrew Little will open the conference which will highlight and aims to combat workplace bullying including sexual harassment. National Party spokesperson on workplace relations and safety Scott Simpson will open day two.

“Unlike the US, NZ enacted the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. It makes actionable types of harm that result from bullying. Thus, New Zealand has far outstripped US legislative progress to date,” Dr Namie wrote.

In addressing the Prime Minister, Dr Namie said: “Your personal legislative and advocacy record features social justice campaigns and you speak of building a compassionate government. You certainly understand the needs of children. Child abuse in both our countries has long been taboo.

“Domestic violence, too, was criminalised after long fights by for protections against abuse. It is no longer ethical to support those who batter others. Yet, when abusers are on the payroll, use workplaces to verbally abuse, threaten, humiliate, intimidate or sabotage another person of any rank, abusers can count on employer and legal support.

“This is true in both of our nations. Targeted victims lack the emotional, social and financial resources to counter the abuse. That’s where CultureSafe NZ intervenes to help. Bullying at work is the only form of abuse yet to be considered taboo.”

Dr Namie said the goal of preventing workplace bullying in a nation of your size is realistic one.

“As you said at the UN less than two weeks ago, ‘Madiba taught us that no issue in the world, whether it be racial inequity or indifference is insurmountable’. With education and political will, abuse at work can become a distant memory.”

Andrew Little and Scott Simpson will be joined by a compelling line-up of high-profile speakers including; Worksafe NZ chief executive Nicole Rosie; E tū national director of organising and vice-president of the Council of Trade Unions Rachel Mackintosh; Olivia Wensley, legal disruptor; and Mental Health Foundation CEO Shaun Robinson.

“To have both Labour’s heavy hitting Justice Minister and National’s spokesperson on workplace relations and safety kick-off our conference is a coup,” CultureSafe NZ director Allan Halse said.

“It is great to have Government officials and the Council of Trade Unions on the same platform as CultureSafe NZ Ltd for the first time. I believe it time to transition from an ‘us versus them’ adversarial relationship to a partnership where we can work together to create solutions that will bring an end to New Zealand’s bullying workplace culture.

“Holding the summit in Wellington clearly sends the signal that we need to collaborate to create a solution including agreement and commitment to a legislative and cultural programme that will see bullying have its own separate legislation and the support that it truly deserves. So it’s brilliant to see Mr Little and Mr Simpson both attending in acknowledgement of this,” Halse said.

To register to attend see https://cultureshift-2018.lilregie.com/booking/attendees/new

1. Link to the Conference and Conference speakers/registration:

2. The cost of bullying to the economy is unquantified in New Zealand. In Australia figures for bullying equate to between $6 billion and $36 billion a year.
3. A NZ study had shown that throughout New Zealand 1 in 5 people are bullied in the workplace.
That’s equivalent to 400,000 New Zealanders who are subject to some form of bullying in the workforce.


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