Air traffic control has a toxic culture of harassment, bullying and discrimination, putting travellers’ lives at risk.
The disturbing claims are contained in a damning report written by a former Federal Court justice for Airservices Australia.
Air traffic control report based on survey of 524 workers
The report is the work of Tony North QC, and is partly based on a January survey of 524 air traffic control workers.
YouGov Galaxy conducted the research and received responses from almost half the workforce.
Half of all respondents, and more than three quarters of female Airservices workers reported:
- inappropriate touching,
- discrimination or
- sexual abuse over the past decade.
Culture of fear, retribution and nepotism
“The overall culture towards women is putrid.”
Additionally, another reported:
“There is a penis drawn on our chair.”
Furthermore, comments submitted by air traffic controllers refer to a culture of “fear”, “retribution” in addition to “nepotism”.
In addition, a senior Melbourne air traffic control manager responsible for training stalked and repeatedly sexually harassed a younger colleague.
As a result, the agency sacked him.
Safety at risk
North found there is a “serious argument” the culture of the Airservices workforce is putting at risk its ability to fulfil its “statutory obligation to ensure the safety of air navigation in Australia’’.
The report reveals disturbing workplace incidents at major airports in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, in addition to airports such as Bankstown.
Australia’s air traffic controllers oversee 160 million passenger movements each year, as well as monitoring two of the world’s busiest routes:
- Melbourne-Sydney and
In conclusion, North says:
“There is a serious argument to be further investigated that the Airservices Australia workplace culture …
“could endanger the safety of air navigation and as a result endanger the lives of air travellers.”
Agency rejects safety concerns
However, Airservices Australia rejected suggestions that the toxic culture is affecting safety, describing the claims as “false and alarmist”.
The agency acknowledged the existence of workplace culture problems, and consequently, is requesting former sex discrimination commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, to conduct a review.
No sexual harassment policy
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from IR Claims said he is shocked that Airservices has no sexual harassment policy.
“There is no excuse for employers failing to have a basic sexual harassment policy,” he said.
“This report clearly shows Airservices has a lot of work to do ensure it is complying with harassment, discrimination and bullying workplace laws.”