I’ve been doing almost nothing but research for the last few days (pages are my happy place) and have finally drafted us a petition letter!
I’ve also realised that I was yelling at the wrong people, Lifeline Australia can’t (just like they say) , do much here – it needs to be Wollongong. So I’ve hunted out our Board Members and sent this message where it needs to go.
Sigh. Maybe now we can just all sit down and work out how to fix the mess. I love every single one of you who’s signed.
NEW LETTER AND RECIPIENTS
Lifeline South Coast Board Chair Stephen Long
Lifeline South Coast Deputy Chair Andrew Smith
Lifeline South Coast Treasurer (new Oct 16) Ross Johnson
Lifeline South Coast Secretary (new Nov 16) Jon Hoogland
Lifeline South Coast Board Member Linda Morrissey
Lifeline South Coast Board Member Dr Paul Chad
Lifeline South Coast Deputy Chair and Secretary (dep Oct 16) Dr Robyn Young
Lifeline South Coast Auditor Elias (Lou) Kinnas
I very much look forward to us discussing these ‘matters’ further.
Unfortunately, I feel that all attempts to communicate with me as a human being from anyone in Lifeline South Coast have ceased since I filed my complaint. There was no chance at all for me to enter into dialogue, no chance be heard on theses concerns which I’ve been trying to raise for the last year.
We went straight from me giving feedback to the Board cutting me off from contact with anyone pretty much instantly. The ‘special leave’ you have retrospectively retitled ‘suspension with pay’ is an obvious ploy to hide the reality of the very real workplace risks I’m trying to get you to see.
This rewriting of history as grounds to punish me, escalating to threats of firing because I spoke about this to Lifeline Australia, mirrors almost exactly, the act your solicitors have accused me of: ‘actions [which] amount to the destruction of the employment relationship.’ Indeed, I feel that part of the bullying I’ve been subjected to was constant reminders from Ms Leslie about the tenuous nature of my position and her control over me as a decision maker, even following the handing over of my management.
Since my first written complaint about Ms Leslie, the request to review my probation, I have never felt secure at Lifeline. This is a direct result of the workplace bullying I have received at her hands, second-hand through her interferences as Book Fair Coordinator, and systematically through that beautiful ‘failing’ of my probation and these current matters.
I am still genuinely astonished that you guys didn’t just call me in for a coffee and chat meeting and ask me more about what I was seeing. Scanning that string of ‘letters after names’ that you share between you, I find it almost unbelievable that you’d waste all that education (and the power it gives you) making ridiculous decisions like this one.
I spat out my own string of letters to establish us as equals in this discussion, attempting by doing so to subvert the traditional Lifeline hierarchy of communication and discursively position us as equals. Obviously that failed.
Workplace bullying is dangerous in any industry and for any employer. For it to be endemic and protected in Lifeline – Australia’s most recognisable suicide intervention service – is intolerable.
While my public discussion of these matters has revealed issues in many branches of Lifeline, what Mr Gilkies stated in his correspondence is true: every lifeline is a seperate entity, a.k.a ‘Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking’ (PCBU).
Despite being registered under the Australian Charities
and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012, Lifeline South Coast is not exempt from the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, nor from the Corporations Act 2001.
As you will see upon receiving my response to your threatened ‘dismissal’, my matter could be seen to have a very strong case under the ‘Criteria for protection as a whistleblower’ test available here: http://asic.gov.au/about-asic/asic-investigations-and-enforcement/whistleblowing/guidance-for-whistleblowers/#HowdoestheCorporationsActprotectwhistleb
To elucidate further, my results on the test were:
1. Your role: a current employee of the company your disclosure is about,
2. Who the disclosure is made to: a director, secretary or senior manager of the company
3. Providing your name: Dr Angela J Williams, Team Leader, Lifeline Books / Whistleblower (seriously, didn’t one of you ever Google me?)
4. Reasonable grounds to suspect breach: My reading of the Corporations Act 2001, in particular 5E (2)a, leads me to believe that our ‘director’ and ‘officers’ are obliged to follow concurrent state legislation. Which in this case would be the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
According to https://www.comcare.gov.au/preventing/hazards/psychosocial_hazards/bullying_in_the_workplace
“A Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) has the primary duty of care under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act) to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers and that other persons at the workplace are not put at risk from the work that is carried out. ‘Health’ is defined in the WHS Act as both physical and psychological health.”
5. Made in good faith: I have repeatedly stated to my managers, our customers, donors, volunteers, and now media and change.org, that my motive for doing this is to help Lifeline South Coast (because we’ll talk about the rest of the complaints I’m getting later) become as strong and functional as it needs to be to support that vital number and our vital vision.
If you really do want to see ‘An Australia free of suicide’, please act urgently to bring the actions of the board and management back in line with the vital mission we are all striving to succeed in!
Go back to my original feedback.
Read it again, but read it as humans instead of thinking as those stuck in the ‘process of introducing and legitimising a marketing discourse into charity organisations’ (Chad 2010).
Read my feedback as if it comes from someone who actually wants Lifeline to matter.
Read my feedback as if I helped those volunteers through the organisational, safety and administrative disaster which was Auburn Street Lifeline’s 2016, because I believe in our Vision.
Yeah, that year-long disaster, Mr Stephen Long describes – in his Report for the 2016/17 Annual Review – by saying ‘the transition has not come without disturbance to our retail staff and volunteers and the Board recognises this and thanks them for their forbearance’ .
(Just FYI, Mr Long, I never saw a single copy of this Annual Report at the Warehouse. Not one single copy. You might want to make these apologies to the volunteers, let them tell you how the ‘disturbances’ felt from their end, as recommended in my feedback.)
Read my feedback as if I’ve done every other thing that Lifeline’s wanted, including climbing inside our stinking donation bins and doing the grunt work at Book Fairs, so maybe if I’m willing to take this big a risk to get you to listen to me, then maybe I am acting in the very best kind of faith possible: the one where everyone else calls you ‘crazy’ because they don’t want to see what you’re pointing at, but you could save them all from disaster.
Okay, moving forward:
Get in a room together, do that committee thing. Go for a smoko. Come back. Pick up the phone, call the lawyers and cancel the disciplinary actions.
Respond to my many attempts to discuss this on Facebook with a statement that acknowledges my complaints should have been dealt with differently. Commit to an open and independent investigation, where all matters are investigated, every single page.
Then get all of you and all of management into a room and do that SafeTalk training I did in my first week. You know, the course tailored for ‘business leaders’. I’ve often reflected on how different my experience with Lifeline would have been if Ms Leslie had participated in that course, rather than ‘hosting’.
I hope you are now able to see how seriously I take these risks identified to you in December 2017.
It’s becoming more and more obvious to me that these issues are endemic throughout the Lifeline Organism, so let’s do it! Let’s be the ones who put in place every single one of our values when we think about every one of our actions! Let’s be the Lifeline that fixes all those problems Lifeline used to have!
Angela Williams and my wonderful supporter,
Post originally appeared here: https://www.change.org/p/lifeline-take-workplace-bullying-seriously/u/22267391