‘Unacceptable’: Toxic work culture exposed

Nearly one in two local government employees say they have been bullied. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Emma Brasier

Nearly one in two overworked local government workers in South Australia say they have experienced bullying at work in a damning new survey that’s exposed a problematic work culture.

In a survey of 385 local government workers, including social workers, librarians and community workers, the Australian Services Union (ASU) found four in 10 workers had been personally subjected to bullying in their workplaces, with only 7.5 per cent of respondents satisfied with how it was resolved.

Forty-five per cent also said they had witnessed bullying at work.

Woman at the library, she is searching books on the bookshelf and picking a textbook, hand close up
The survey included librarians, and social workers. Picture: iStock

ASU South Australia and Northern Territory Branch assistant secretary Scott Cowen said the survey was “really needed” and revealed the extent of bullying rampant in the industry.

“We suspected anecdotally there were some issues around jobs being replaced by short-term contracts and members working in government having to do more with less, but we weren’t as certain of the figures around bullying,” Mr Cowen said.

“It’s really unacceptable. No worker should be putting up with that at work.”

He said the workers surveyed included people who ran libraries and community centres whom some of the most “needy people in society rely upon”.

“We’re talking about social workers and community centres where there’s a huge range of services for families and children,” he said.

“It also comes right through to planning things for parks, gardens, your waste services and all the regulatory services as well.

“Without local government providing these services, people wouldn’t have safe streets to walk down on.”

Scott Cowen
ASU South Australia and Northern Territory Branch assistant secretary Scott Cowen said bullying was rampant. Picture: Supplied

Local government workers were also asked about their workload, with 84 per cent of workers

agreeing that their workloads had increased in the last three years and 50 per cent saying it had “considerably increased”.

Sixty-nine per cent of respondents also said they worked through their lunch and tea breaks, and 15 per cent said they frequently were required to respond to work-related matters outside hours.

ASU SA and NT Branch secretary Abbie Spencer urged local governments to take action.

“This survey shows very clearly that bullying is a significant issue in local government workplaces and is part of an overall culture problem that is inevitably driving staff away,” she said.

“It is deeply worrying that so many workers are feeling disillusioned in management and so unstable about contract renewals that they are turning a blind eye to bullying and unfair conditions at work.”