a first-person account of alleged workplace bullying: ‘linfox, i just want my job back’
Last week, 200 workers at a Melbourne distribution centre operated by Linfox protested against an alleged culture of bullying. One ex-employee, Penny Palmer, who had worked casually at the warehouse, said she was unfairly dismissed after accusing a fellow employee of sexual harassment.
In her own words:
Have you ever had someone spread rumours about you at work?
Say things that are nasty and untrue?
It’s not nice. It can feel frustrating and like you don’t have total control over your life.
I found myself in that situation a month ago.
I was working at a large Linfox warehouse and decided to approach the colleague talking about me and ask him to stop.
It felt like a simple way to sort things out.
Unfortunately the guy who was bullying me had other ideas.
In front of five other people he started screaming at me.
He called me a b#$ch, a whore and a slut.
I didn’t know what to do.
I was shaking and was so frightened I rushed away from him as quickly as I could and kept working, but he kept yelling at me as I was rushing away and everyone could hear.
I had been working five or six days every week at Linfox but was employed through an agency as a casual.
My main concern was not wanting to get in trouble because I knew I could easily lose my job, I was after all employed as a casual through an agency.
Because of this I was too scared to report the abuse, but one of the witnesses thought that it was so bad he went and reportedit to management himself.
That night I got a text from my agency saying my shift the next day had been cancelled.
The next day, the same thing.
On the third day my agency phoned and asked if something had happened.
I told them I had been abused and was told by the agency they thought I was a good worker and would try to get me working again.
I have not had a shift with Linfox since.
I was sacked without a single word, without even being told I was being sacked andafter I had been sexually bullied.
I found out later Linfox had also sacked my bully, it seems their way of dealing with this abuse was simply to wipe their hands of both the bully and the victim.
They didn’t even investigate the incident.
The sad thing is I wasn’t even surprised. I had heard from other workers at the warehouse that in the last year there had been three women who reported being sexually bullied.
They were all working as casuals and all got a phone call within a day of reporting the abuse saying they were no longer required at Linfox.
My Union, the National Union of Workers, have explained to Linfox what happened to me and asked for me to be reinstated.
Linfox have refused to re-employ me and have refused to even call me or meet with me.
It is very difficult for me to deal with the fact I have been treated so unfairly after I was the victim of abuse.
I know the only reason I have been treated like this is because I was employed through an agency as a casual worker.
It’s really unfair that I can legally be treated like this but if I had been employed as a permanent worker this would be illegal.
All I wanted was to treated like everyone else, to go to work do a good job and know I am safe.
Now I have been left without a job, I’ve had just three days work in the past month through my agency and am reliant on my boyfriend’s financial support to survive.
And that’s not to mention the month of emotional stress I have been put through.
But despite all that I’d still like to go back to Linfox to work.
I want to work with my friends again and earn an income, but to also be treated treated with dignity and respect.
I am asking anyone who reads this and thinks it is unfair to sign the petition on the National Union of Workers’ website: http://www.nuw.org.au/warehousing-distribution/campaigns/linfox-gets-organised
By Penny Palmer
You can read Linfox’s response to the allegations of bullying here.