3BA Radio Ballarat has been convicted and fined a total of $50,000 after pleading guilty to “failing to provide a safe workplace with adequate systems, information, instruction and training”, as required under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The fine follows the recent conviction of former 3BA announcer, Reg Mowatt, for bullying.
Two counts were proven and the station was fined $25,000 for failing to provide a safe workplace and $25,000 for failing to provide instruction, training and supervision in relation to workplace bullying.
The decision is the first of its kind in Victoria and believed to be an Australian first.
In court, prosecutor, Garry Livermore, said complaints went “virtually unheeded” by the company and that General Manager, David Hoey, had “expressed his disappointment” with employees upon discovering they had reported the matter to WorkSafe.
But, defence counsel, Peter Rozen, said the company had issued Mowat with two written warnings about his behaviour before dismissing him on 21 October 2003. He told the court the company had also spent $27,000 on developing anti-bullying policies last November and held workplace bullying training sessions in January.
Defence Counsel Rozen said, while there were “clear deficiencies” in Radio Ballarat’s response to Mowat’s bullying, it was caused by a “lack of awareness” rather than intent.
Prosecutor Livermore countered, saying WorkSafe Victoria had published an array of material for employers in relation to workplace bullying and that Radio Ballarat had even run advertisements promoting the campaign.
Victim impact statements, tendered to the court, showed Mowat’s victims felt “ignored and undervalued”.
Livermore, representing the Victorian Work Cover Authority, told the Magistrates Court that Radio Ballarat “failed abysmally to look after the interests of its employees” during incidents involving verbal and physical abuse and assaults by Mowatt over a period of two years.
The company cited a lack of awareness and constraints of the Workplace Relations Act as a reason for the failure.
Grant Broadcasters, the owner of Radio Ballarat, has since “established an appropriate anti-bullying policy and provided training for staff and management”.