Funding and reform needed to make Parliament a kinder workplace

The PSA is saddened but not surprised by the Francis Review’s findings of ‘systemic’ bullying and harassment in the Parliamentary workplace.

We support the review’s recommendations for the reform of the employment relationships that exist there, and better resourcing to help change the culture that contributes to bullying.

"All of the agencies there are vastly under-resourced. People are working extremely long hours under intense pressure and that’s a big factor in the bullying culture," says PSA national secretary Glenn Barclay.

"It may not be an easy sell for politicians to allocate more funding to parliamentary agencies. But it is necessary to make it a safe place to work for the people who ensure the effective functioning of our democracy."

The PSA welcomes employment reforms that would give greater protection and security for our members in the Parliamentary Service, Ministerial & Secretariat Services/DIA and the Office of the Clerk.

These include overhauling triangular employment arrangements, in which parliamentary workers are employed by those agencies but managed by MPs, and ensuring that the agencies are proactive and responsible employers in every way.

The union backs the reform of the breakdown of relationship clause says Mr Barclay.

"MPs can currently use the so-called ‘gone by lunchtime’ clause as a trigger to get rid of staff easily when relationships turn toxic, rather than working to build good relationships in the first place. Our members need to be protected from unreasonable treatment without making their roles even less secure."

Many staff in the Parliamentary workplace are also vulnerable because their employment is events-based, which means they could lose their jobs when their MPs do.

"We agree there needs to be improved redeployment for staff in that situation, and the introduction of more permanent positions for those who seek greater security," Mr Barclay says.

"But we also acknowledge that the culture of bullying impacts on all of our members in the Parliamentary workplace, including those who are already permanent staff, and the culture needs to change for everyone."

The PSA is now calling for accountability for the implementation of the reforms.

"We need greater clarity over exactly what these changes will look like, who is responsible for implementing them, and when they will be introduced, and we are looking forward to hearing that."

"Finally, while most of these reforms should be positive for the parliamentary workforce in the long term, it is crucial that worker voices are heard during what could be a challenging transformation process."