Alcoa’s workforce in Western Australia has urged the State Government to launch a WorkSafe inquiry into the company’s “dictatorial” management style due to concerns that it is causing an “epidemic” of serious mental health issues, the AMWU announced on Friday.
It comes after a series of reported incidents which put workers across Alcoa’s five facilities in WA under intense pressure by punitive managers for minor breaches that have automatically resulted in first and final warnings.
The AMWU said union delegates and counsellors, as well as over 200 union health surveys have confirmed that they have seen a steady stream of stressed, fearful workers over the past few years, always with the same chronic cause.
AMWU member and State Labor MP Sally Talbot urged WA’s Minister for Commerce to authorise the WorkSafe inquiry after Pinjarra union delegates presented her with the petition organised by the AMWU and signed by 554 Alcoa workers.
“Many employees have already been pushed to breaking point yet management is refusing to acknowledge our serious concerns regarding this entrenched and systemic bullying, harassment and intimidation,” the petition said.
AMWU convenor Charlie Clarke said Alcoa had abandoned the previous approach of counselling employees over any safety or disciplinary infraction and accused the company of threatening them with “instant dismissal” next time after a first and final warning.
“This isn’t a one-off problem, it’s a pattern of management behaviour set from the top. It’s disrespectful and brutal. It doesn’t help productivity, it hinders it,” Mr Clarke said.
WA State Secretary Steve McCartney said mental health issues were surfacing after the WA Parliamentary Inquiry into FIFO work, adding that the Alcoa situation also warranted urgent action.
“We have a systematic misuse of management prerogative at Alcoa, a build-up of many incidents. We’re seeing symptoms of anger, depression, people not knowing what to do next,” Mr McCartney said.