The Labour Party Conference in Cork, Ireland, 28th/30th September 2001, has unanimously adopted a motion to set up an Ombudsman's office to deal with complaints relating to discrimination, bullying and harassment.
The motion was proposed by Limerickman Mr. Peter McNamara, B.E., M.I.E.I., C.Eng., M.L.A., Regional Director, the Campaign against Bullying (CaB); Chairman, the Labour Party Abbey Branch, Limerick East; Chartered Member, the Institution of Engineers of Ireland.
The motion reads;
That the Labour Party in government will set up an Ombudsman's Office with the Power to Investigate and Direct resolution to complaints of
Discrimination, Bullying, Harassment and Breach of Human Rights
from Employed Persons, Children and the Elderly where the complaint has not been speedily resolved at local level.
The motion was supported by the Limerick Constituency Council of the Labour Party, Chairman, Mr. Joe Kemmy (brother of the late Mr. Jim Kemmy former T.D. and Chairman of the Labour Party) and was seconded by Ald. Jan O'Sullivan,T.D. and Labour Party spokesperson on Equality and Law Reform.
In his speech to conference Mr. McNamara referred to the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989, the Equality Act 1998, and the Common Law requiring organisations to provide a Safe Place of Work free from Personal Injury defined in the legislation as an injury to both Physical and Mental Health and the responsibility of those in charge to exercise a Duty of Care towards all those persons working for them or in their charge.
Mr. McNamara also criticised the recent and much delayed Report of the Task Force on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying from Minister Tom Kitt's office as a toothless kitten. It may have been well meaning but has made little or no impact on the situation on the ground and to the many people suffering gross abuse at the hands of bullies, many of whom are abusing their positions of power.
He strongly urged that the recommendations of the FGS Group consultants' report on the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), described as scathing on Prime Time last year, be implemented as a matter of urgency. N.B. As regards workplace bullying this is especially important as the task-force operated under the auspices of the HSA, and , for the prevention of workplace bullying, the HSA is now the central coordinating state agency, host of the advisory committee and in charge of the Bullying Response Unit to which complaints of workplace bullying may be made.
Mr. McNamara, told the conference that the dogs in the street know that the safety laws were being flouted in Ireland and that one could still find people in organisations that didn't even know what a safety statement was 12 years after it became law in Ireland. "In fact", he continued,"it is clear that the dogs in Ireland are better cared for than employed persons since there are approximately 5 times more dog wardens per head (54 per 160,000 dogs) than safety inspectors (apprx. 100 per 1.6 million employed) and this has to tell us something about the priority this government places on safety."
Mr. McNamara made the point that if we are relying on the HSA to investigate cases of bullying or discrimination one could have a long wait while most likely suffering from stress overload, depression, insomnia, high blood pressure or other illness at the hands of bullies. He also made the point that in Sweden where bullying has been outlawed altogether it is estimated that nearly 20% of men who commit suicide do so as a result of being bullied. How much worse is the figure here where bullying is not outlawed and statistics on bully-related suicide are not compiled?
Jan O'Sullivan, T.D., in a recent press release following the Task Force publication from Minister Kitt's office also stated that bullying may have to be outlawed altogether in Ireland also.
The motion ensures that it is now Labour
Party policy to enact legislation to create an Ombudsman's office to combat
bullying and provide a resource and assistance to the elderly, children
and employed persons not well covered by existing equality legislation
who wish to defend themselves by exercising their legal and human rights.