A Whistleblower’s Persective: Why Honesty Is So Hard To Do

We hear a lot of corporate and government leaders speaking about the greater need for integrity, honesty, and systematic transparency. Yet, at a deeper level we all feel let down by many of the broken promises they make, however, that doesn’t stop us from hoping that one day, a leader, or leaders will actually deliver on what they continually promise.

In the meantime, what I would propose is a more critical approach in assessing and challenging what our corporate and government leaders espouse as ideal behaviours and actions and how that actually translates in ‘real life’. I call it ‘Discussing Undiscussables’, which is a reality based approach that should bring us all greater protection from ourselves, because let’s face it, we have seen the enemy and the enemy is us. By keeping silent about the obvious gaps between high sounding rhetoric and the failure to ‘walk the walk’, we only have ourselves to blame.

Having said that, this is not as easy as it first sounds, because there are obvious pitfalls associated with boldly challenging those in positions of power. It is no fun being a lone ‘whistleblower’, in fact, you sometimes stand a better chance of howling at the moon and being heard, than you do by standing on your principles and being heard.

In order to illustrate what I mean, I have borrowed from the research of others, such as Chris Arygris, who is Professor of Education and Organisational Behaviour in the Graduate Schools of Education and Businessat Harvard University. Also worth noting is Eileen Shapiro, author of Fad Surfing in The Boardroom and former consultant with McKinsey & Company, Inc.

The Barrier

The key emphasise of Arygris’ research focuses on learning dysfunctions that seriously inhibit organisational learning, he claims, “There is much that we are not allowed to talk about in our organisations. Special codes of silence mean a whole range of issues that ought to be discussed are not. People know what can be discussed and what cannot. But, but not being able to talk about some things seriously inhibits our capacity (individually and collectively) to learn.

He gave us the ‘theory ˆ in -use’ and and theory ˆ in ˆ action’ contraststhat helps explain why leaders do different things from what they think they do. When leaders explain why they do the things they do (their ‘theory -in-use’) it is often the case that this does not match up with the actions actually taken by those leaders (their ‘ theory ˆ in -action).

Arygris gives us the concepts of ‘single loop’ and ‘double loop’ learning, explaining why so many of us deal with problems without learning from them, and thus are unable to prevent the same problems from arising again.

‘Single loop’ learning allows us to respond to a problem and fix it; ‘double loop’ learning enables us to ask why the problem occurred in the first place. If you can only do the first and not the second then you are likely to be fixing a lot of the same problems over and over again (for those who complain about being so busy putting out fires, that you are never able to get around to doing real work, this will be obvious to you).

Undiscussable Issues

One of Arygris’s more practical but underexploited concepts is the idea the there are matters in all organisations that are simply undiscussable.

Further, the undiscussability of these matters is also undiscussable. Even at a glance, this goes a long way towards explaining why sometimes the people in organisations cannot see the wood for the trees, and continually do things that are known to lead to failure. If a detour from the pathway that is known to lead to failure involves wandering into undiscussable territory, then we can predict that the organisation will press on with the well known paths to proven failure. Such organisations cannot learn.

This anti-learning mechanism is explained by Arygris as ‘primary inhibitory loops’. He describes these as ‘self ˆ reinforcing patterns of action strategies and anti-learning consequences’. Managers or politicians, in trying to solve problems, tend to resort to tactics that prevent them from speaking about situations truthfully. This leads them into a ‘loop’ of avoiding the real problem, which is followed by more conversations that avoid the real problem. After a bit of this, those involved in this process all agree that they are wasting their time but don’t understand why this is the case. Everyone leaves the discussion feeling dissatisfied but notknowing why nothing was achieved.

Leaders are trapped in these loops for various reasons (Arygris calls them ‘conditions of error’) such as vagueness, ambiguity, untestability, scattered information, information withheld, undiscussability, uncertainty, inconsistency and incompatibility. The ‘undiscussability’ error is common knowledge to most people working in organisations. Most people know the matters that cannot be raised openly in discussion in their organisation, and if such matters are raised they are likely to be ignored. Such matters are clearly known to all, but mentioned by none.

These loops are part of the phenomenon Argyris calls ‘organisational defence routines’: „These actions and policies, enacted within an organisation setting, that are intended to protect individuals from experiencing embarrassment or threat, while at the same time preventing individual’s, or organisations as a whole, from identifying the causes of embarrassment or threat in order to correct the relevant problem.

These routines are entirely logical and rule-driven. Essentially the logic comprises four rules:

1.Craft messages that contain inconsistencies.

2.Act as though the messages are not inconsistent.

3.Make ambiguity and inconsistency in the message undiscussable.

4.Make the undiscussability of the undiscussable also undiscussable.

A simple but common example of how the rules apply is when a CEO announces a new initiative, such as encouraging employees to be more innovative, empowered, and customer ˆ focused. Most employees go along with the new initiatives despite knowing that the CEO does not mean it ˆ those who act on the new initiative (do something different, use their own judgement, refund an unhappy customer) risk getting in trouble. Some do get into trouble and are dealt with. The whole process is known as a charade but no one talks about it in that way. The failure of the CEO’s initiative is attributed to other reasons, such as lack of commitment by employees. The initiative is soon forgotten. The organisation has gained nothing and learned nothing.

Here are some other classic examples of typical ‘undiscussables’ that should be familiar to everyone. Eileen Shapiro, presents it as ‘The Rules Of The Internal Game Balance Sheet’ in her chapter on ‘Decoding The Corporate Culture’.

THE RULES OF THE INTERNAL GAME BALANCE SHEET

Espoused rule (sounds like a corporate asset)

Real rule (Functions as a corporate liability)

Quality comes first.

Get the tones out no matter what.

Never sell the customer something they don’t need.

Get the order; he who books the most revenues gets the most goodies.

Innovate! We need innovation and we celebrate honourable failures.

No matter what, failure is a failure; it’s far, far worse to have tried and failed than to have never to have tried at all.

We take the long term-view of our businesses.

Miss your budget numbers and you’re dead meat.

We have an open environment; speak up if you ever have a concern.

Accentuate the positive and just sublimate the negative (unless you have a death wish)

Teams are our lifeblood.

Promotions go to individual contributors.

Developing our people is our most important task.

Managers who spend their time developing their people are weenies, neither tough enough personally nor strong enough analytically to do the job around here.

We are a learning organisation; help us improve continuously.

Don’t rock the boat, or else!

Compensation is a private matter between you and your boss; do not discuss it with others.

Share compensation numbers with peers; it’s the only way to create are liable ruler for measuring how well you are doing.

We are a nonhierarchical collegial organisation and we follow the golden rule of reciprocity in our treatment of each other.

Golden rule, ha!; I kissed up to my boss to get where I was going and now you need to kiss up to me.

Run this business as if it were your own; manage for the long-haul.

Fast trackers never stay in the same job for more than two years so go after actions that look big initially (but someone else has to implement) or that give great initial results (no matter what the long ˆ term costs).

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33 Responses

  1. Oh c’mon Mac, a great topic whistleblowers and I would love to discuss the $30 million per year and oppressive punitive action Howard utilised on suppressing leaks and whistleblowers within his government, and how Rudd promised a more open government but as far as I’m aware hasn’t dismantled many of the government oversight and big brother mechanisms Howard put in place.

    But that article is way too long for a general discussion blog, only goes into whistleblowing as a general premise to make a point about running a business but most of all it’s much too heavy for first thing Monday morning.

  2. Ouch! Adrian, Actually, being a ‘whistleblower’ has led me to a greater understanding of the underlying dynamics that are obvious and occur daily within business and politics.

    Actually, I would have thought that this topic may have set you alight with examples. In fact, the underlying dynamic is, in my opinion, the theme that runs through many debates on this as well as other blogs.

    The business examples I used are so obvious to most people that I thought using them would help turn a ‘light on without having to think too much’

    How much time and effort is spent by politician’s and business people defending their positions simply because they lacked the honesty and integrity to be upfront in the first place.

    Hence, I refer to ‘A Whistleblower’s Perspective’ – if, for example, incongruence (between ‘word’ and ‘deed’) is an inherent part of business and political leadership , it stands to reason that when someone ‘sounds the horn’ or ‘blows the whistle’ they should expect repercussions.

  3. G’day JMc, I agree with Adrian re length, didn’t I limit you to 200 words not 2000? 😀

    The post is topical though and nice to see Adrian, finally agreeing that Kevin R has really only changed some of the seats around – the Titanic is still sinking… 🙂

    Argyris was writ loud in my studies of Human Resource Development (my major) and one of the reasons I started my own consultancy (apart from being swamped with part-time work!) was how I noticed the change from being an external consultant to being an internal consultant (ie go into an organisation to train managers and supervisors – loud cheers and hurrahs – external nowt!).

    One company headhunted me for a senior position in H&S and my skill and knowledge suddenly “disappeared” – the senior executives even ran a “book” at $10 each to see how long I would last (two years actually) because I didn’t fall into the 103 year culture of Groupthink and hypocrisy. They expected me to just “head up H&S” – not actaually do anything…

    One of the reasons many people will say “…we employ these consultants to tell us what we already know..!” – management needs an external source becuase they often don’t believe in the internal expertise…BTW they still sit on their hands till one of the wheels falls off… 😉

    Once again this subject highlights the fact that most managers are that in title only – bit like just calling yourself a dentist or a doctor but not knowing what to do – you will get away with it for some time before it finally crashes down around you…

    Just to remind everyone that some managers are actually qualified to manage (any business) it is a profession in its own right (ie Bachelor of Business…). Most managers are promoted via Peters Principle and often reach their level of incompetence as a manager…everybody knows it…but senior managers are often as poorly qualified as the middle managers and don’t know how to deal with it…downward spiral…ask Eddie Groves…

    …stick a whistleblower in the middle of all this and all hell breaks loose – typical example of incompetent management has been the “pub poo” fiasco…

    …at James Hardie I was proud to have been “insulted” with terms such as “…do you always go for the jugular…” – “…yer just a loose cannon…is nothing sacred…” Short answewr to both question and statement… Yes and No!

  4. John, this is very interesting, but I think there is cause for optimism.

    The characteristics outlined are those that differentiate traditional organisations from emerging organisations.

    Traditional organisations (eg – tired, old political parties, former government enterprises, large, unresponsive private institutions, and other membership based organisations run by a clique), are all known for the huge gulf between their slick gloss, clever catch phrases and meaningless statements of purpose.

    Behind the glossy façade remain the old practices – bullying, unethical deal making, suppression of originality, lip service to transparency.

    Emerging organisations are gaining success – people prefer to be optimistic about human nature. Emerging organisations attract bright people and put them to good use by harnessing their ethical intentions. Ethical people want to be part of something better than a power or profit struggle. Bright people hate being stifled by the heavy blanket of hypocrisy.

    The closing the bigger loop is a key issue, bright people want to design or rectify systems, not just chase the next crisis.

    Thanks for this interesting contribution.

  5. Tom

    Thanks for getting my point on this.

    And you said it best:

    “Bright people hate being stifled by the heavy blanket of hypocrisy. “

  6. TB

    Brilliant LOL

    “…I didn’t fall into the 103 year culture of Groupthink and hypocrisy.

    …stick a whistleblower in the middle of all this and all hell breaks loose – typical example of incompetent management has been the “pub poo” fiasco…”

    I should note that I do struggle from time to time articulating on this subject, given it’s been quite emotive for me after having my career derailed for taking a stand.

  7. Sincere thanks guys for your feedback, in fact, it’s brilliant. It’s helping me objectify in areas where I’ve felt personally stuck for far too long.

    Cheers

    John Mc

  8. John

    Something else to think about (and TB may have some experience with this as well) is the effect that bonuses and cash incentives have on reporting. It is common in the mining industry to have safety bonuses for no or low LTIs. While the corporate heads argue that this promote a safer work environment, at the coal face (quite literally) all it does is promote non-disclosure of accidents and people working injured. There is even anecdotal evidence to suggest that peer pressure from other employers also wanting the bonus adds to this non-reporting culture. The end result is that the financial bonus actually rewards people for not being a whistle blower.

    Another thing that irks me about the mining industry (and I guess other industries as well although I’m not as familiar with them) is the poor understanding of the role independent audits play. Audits should be carried out to identify deficiencies in systems, whether they be safety, environmental or financial; they are part of any good due diligence program if used effectively. Unfortunately, many audits results are provided first to middle management who’s job it is to implement the systems being audited. As a result, the positive results of the audit are accentuated when repiorted up the line rathert than the deficiencies. On case I am well aware of, an audit picked up several deficiencies in systems but was overall pretty positive. Several months later, a person was killed and the key failings leading to the death were those systems failures identified in the audit. After the accident, middle management still asserted that the audit was overall quite positive. Quite frankly – I don’t give a shit what the audit identifies as working well. The role of an audit is to work out what isn’t working so it can be fixed. What is working can be examined to see if features of those systems can be applied to what isn’t working but that’s about it. Audits aren’t good news reports unless everything is shown to be working well.

    IMO audits results should be provided to senior management and the executive undiluted. They are ultimately responsible form making sure that their you-beaut paper systems that they paid heaps to develop are being implemented and are working – the audit is there to tell senior management if this is the case so they can implement changes. By going through middle management, these messages of failure aren’t reported up the line as well as they should be; senior management are kept in the dark and the errors perpetuate further errors until eventually something catastrophic happens and the dirty laundry is aired.

  9. John, for what it is worth (and that’s probably not much), I think it is great put your opinions out.

    I know you’ve indicated in the past the difficulty that you have faced as a consequence of whistle blowing.

    One of the difficult things about ethics is sticking to them. It is annoying and painful sometimes. But in hindsight sticking to ethics provides sleep at night and a whole lot more self respect than the alternative.

  10. Dave

    Most of the incentive style programs have gone within the bigger companies (eg Rio T and BHP) but some do still exist.

    They may get a belt buckle for a major mileston but workers on $100,000+ (thanks to EBA’s, Tom, boo!) prefer the truth and learning new skills, to BS and spin!

    You are right I have a little experience (as a competency based learning consultant in management, H&S and training & assessment)…

    …the differences are sometimes quite dramatic based upon the corporate philosophy …I used to deliver a three unit mandatory H&S program in Qld. and the two companies above used to employ me – one did the program because it was mandatory (legal requirement) the other because they saw the benefit of melding it with thier existing H&S Program)…thankfully the first organisation needed to use some of the competencies that their troops had acquired and senior mangagement changed concepts when they saw the practical benefits – it wasn’t just “another” H&S Program…and extended it across to all employees (the other mob did that straight away!)

    …I do confess to difficulty with the concept of LTIFR’s and prefer a record of identified hazards and risks managed to eliminate or reduce loss – first one is after the event (therefore negatgive) second approach is proactive (therefore positive)…

    Just to finish – the advantage of being an external consultant – reasonably well known in the mining industry – allowed me to tell senior management at one minesite (above company) that if they didn’t get their act together soon they would have a serious accident or death – and then took them on site to show them where and how…got the job on the spot!

  11. I have no intention of industrialising this discussion despite the lead/silly commentary.

    Best practice OHS concentrates on both audit and culture.

    Prof Andrew Hopkins is probably the most preeminent Australian expert, he seeks to have organisations get beyond the counting LTIs and legislative mandated training.

    His approach to this most serious issue does not in any way industrialise the subject. He seeks to increase care, thinking, awareness as part of the way organisations operate. It is a higher order of development of safety, and the factors that create a safe organisation, than most traditional thinkers are comfortable with.

  12. Dave55

    Here’s the sad dilemma I found myself in as an analyst: I was loved when I was identifying problems and rectifying them within operations, however, when I uncovered anything that may threaten someone’s ‘bonus’ I became as popular a fart in a space suit.

    Incentive structures are at the heart of many of the problems we are seeing in the global financial meltdown, in my opinion.

    Honestly Dave, TB and Tom – your feedback is F%*king excellent. It’s the type of feedback that validates what I’ve been thinking about for the longest time in an attempt to sort myself out. It rattled me big time, as you can see:

    http://workers.labor.net.au/features/200410/b_tradeunion_summit.html

  13. All I can say, JMc, is – ya done good – and you were right to blow the whistle…

    …however, its time to move on and enjoy life, I reckon, there are some wonderful people and places to enjoy…

    …never, ever dwell on the iggorant @rs#oles that’s how they
    think they win…

    😆

  14. John, can I second TB.

    Don’t let wrongdoings in the past eat you up today. It’s not worth it mate…

    Sometimes bad things happen to good people…

  15. Thanks TB and Reb

    On a rational level I understand what you’re trying to say, however, I had my life derailed and it effected and still effects my health and I’m no pushover, and my problem now is that I’m viewed as a liability by prospective employers because (1) I’ve been on workers comp for 5 years, (2) I’ve struggled with major depression, and (3) I blew the whistle on my employer.

    Although I won entitlements to fortnightly payments, which come in at 60% of previous earnings, I’m not able to pursue my former employer and the insurer for damages, which would allow me to start out in business on my own. I also can’t get a bank/business loan for obvious reasons.

    So, I find myself in another fight, I’m also lobbying for changes to personal injury laws in NSW.

    Bernie Banton takes on NSW Government
    http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,21375882-5001028,00.html

    ASBESTOS campaigner Bernie Banton has taken up a new fight – against the New South Wales Government’s personal injury laws.

    Fresh from a successful six-year battle with building products company James Hardie over compensation for asbestos victims, Mr Banton today announced he’s joining a campaign calling for fair compensation for people injured in accidents.

    The campaign, A Fair Go for Injured People, was launched in September by four peak legal bodies in response to sweeping government changes to NSW personal injury legislation.

    Under the changes, people injured in civil liability cases, motor vehicle accidents or in the workplace must meet a certain threshold of bodily impairment before they can be awarded compensation for pain and suffering.

    Mr Banton labelled the threshold ridiculous and said too many people were missing out on fair compensation.

    “I see this is a repeat of the James Hardie issues, people being denied their right to compensation,” he said.

    “We need to get it on the agenda and get commitment from government and alternative governments that they are going to attend to this issue because it needs to be attended to now, not in the future.

    “People are missing out on what is rightfully theirs.”

    Mr Banton said he would use similar tactics in this campaign to those he used against James Hardie.

    “We’ve just got to keep at them. The only way to win these wars is to keep at them and not let the issue die,” he said.

    “It’s so important for people’s financial future that the money is there and available to them and we’ve got to get people over this ridiculous threshold … I believe that all that is necessary is a stroke of the pen.

    “It’s this threshold that’s got to be adjusted so everybody gets a fair go, all we’re asking for a fair go.”

    Campaign spokesman and NSW Bar Association president Michael Slattery QC said 95 per cent of people were unable to access proper compensation.

    As an example, Mr Slattery said green slip insurers had taken in $10 billion in premiums since 1999 and paid out just $2.7 billion in benefits to the injured.

    “It’s a very important campaign and having someone like Bernie Banton on board and assisting with it will give it a great boost and hopefully it will get real attention from the NSW government and the opposition,” he said.

    “Thousands of workers are missing out … I think Bernie’s going to make a difference.”

    The campaign is being driven by the Law Society of NSW, the NSW Bar Association, the Law Council of Australia and the Australian Lawyers Alliance.”

  16. JMc – I was a big fan of Bernie (guess which company had a 103 year old culture of hypocrisy?)

  17. TB

    Hardies! LOL

  18. oh TB *clink* *clink*

    🙂

  19. “clink” sreb, ol’ mate!

    …and any other blogocrats currently imbibing…

  20. Well, John McP, I should have guessed this post was yours! It’s LONG!

    “when I uncovered anything that may threaten someone’s ‘bonus’ I became as popular a fart in a space suit”

    Aint that the truth! I discovered something at work I can’t tell you about!, if I did, I’d have to kill you, or they would kill me and / or people would think I was going crazy. Again.

    When I mentioned this “something”, I was ridiculed, made to feel a fool, told I was dreaming, and reading something in that wasn’t there etc.

    Anyway, at the end of the day, I now tow the company line and play the game. Lets face it, life is a game, we win, we lose, we get $200 when we pass go (payday), go straight to gaol if our crime is bad enough, get parking fines.and go bankrupt.

    Sometimes we don’t have fun when playing the game.

    If there are typo’s, I can’t find my glasses, and the font is the comment box is to small for me to read properly.

  21. Hi Angel

    Hope all is well, glad you found your way over.

  22. Thanks, I also sent the blog address to other “lost” Blogocracy souls. Good luck!

  23. Interesting article on whistleblowing. Sometimes it seems like the most effective solution to the financial crisis is to empower whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are the only resources that can truly expose the worst and most damaging corporate corruption. Regulators are ineffective and frequently incompetent. Many times regulators are swayed by political environments which are influenced by lobbyists.

    Whistleblowers are the most objective resource for insuring corporate accountability.

  24. Circle Point

    “Whistleblowers are the most objective resource for insuring corporate accountability.”

    I agree completely.

  25. Circle Point

    Here’s a letter I wrote in 2005 which illustrates another reason why I’ve become so passionate about whistleblower protection

    http://workers.labor.net.au/281/letters2_killer.html
    Letters to the Editor
    Killer Culture

    It may seem a little strange that a person who blew the whistle on widespread bullying at his former company (Chubb Security) would have so many opinions on free markets, government regulation, IR reforms and OHS? However, personal experience ties all these things together.

    Let me try and put it all together, Mr Rashid, a contractor to Chubb Security who was shot dead at Punchbowl in 2001. Mr Rashid, I believe, was a victim of a culture driven by competition and profit at the expense of employee safety and welfare.

    The reason Chubb decided to reduce the traditional armoured service was one of cost and by replacing four man crews with one person using their own vehicle, allowed them to undercut the competition.

    A close friend of mine had concerns about taking on the downgraded service (and he was the operations manager for that particular service) but had decided to remain quiet for fear of losing his job. In fact most people at Chubb at the time were aware of the consequences of challenging the decision makers.

    The day Mr Rashid was gunned down, I recall having a conversation with my colleague and the first thing he said to me was ‘\they are going to try an pin this on me’, they knew this was wrong! He was visibly shaken and concerned.

    But this known risk to employee safety hadn’t started with the shooting death, in fact, since the service downgrade was implemented other officers had been bashed and robbed – and I think it was on exactly the same run Mr Rashid was on, from memory. All warnings and indicators were conveniently ignored by Chubb.

    In hindsight, it was perfectly foreseeable that tragedy was a real possibility. In fact, Chubb were also later prosecuted by WorkCover for other offences that occurred earlier in 2001.

    I finally blew the whistle because I was unable to tolerate, what to me, was a mean spirited and profit driven machine which had been hurting too many people, including myself.

    This might also help to explain why I am so opposed to proposed industrial reforms – they too could have some very deadly consequences. And a culture of fear and intimidation that exists in many organisations, in my opinion, will be one of the contributing factors that conceal the potential deadly risks associated with corporate competitiveness.

    Take away workers rights, increase employer power, ignore critical regulations and bang! People can die! And why? Because free market competition for profits replace ‘duty of care’ for the health and welfare of employees and in some cases the public at large. “

  26. Circlepoint (23) I agree. It irks me when we are constantly told that ‘nobody could have forseen’ or ‘the Govt was unaware’, when it appears that Govt and corporations go out of their way to ensure no ‘bad news’ is reported.

    Then they all feign shock and horror when something ‘unexpected’ happens.

  27. John,

    Chubb (and the sub contractor) were prosecuted for this. Chubb was fined $246000 + costs.

    Judgement here

    While Tom may be critical of Unions, if they are run well, they can help empower employees to have things done in the workplace to make it safer – it is one of the better functions performed by unions IMO.

  28. John, I really feel for you and Mr Rashid.

    “Take away workers rights, increase employer power, ignore critical regulations and bang! People can die! And why? Because free market competition for profits replace ‘duty of care’ for the health and welfare of employees and in some cases the public at large.“

    Never a truer word spoken. Especially now we are conditioned that the unemployed are the lowest of the low, workers will be forced into unsafe work practises or risk losing there jobs.

  29. 3 months before Mr Rashid was shot dead Dianne Beamer raised concerns in parliament, it was in 2004 that I personally lobbied for a prosecution via unions and media – sad it took until 2005 for a prosecution to take place.

    http://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/prod/parlment/hanstrans.nsf/V3ByKey/LA20010606

    LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

    Wednesday 6 June 2001

    SECURITY INDUSTRY

    Ms BEAMER (Mulgoa) [5.16 p.m.]: I wish to inform the House of matters relating to the security industry that were brought to my attention by a constituent. The constituent raised particular concerns about the action of Chubb Security Services. As many honourable members would be aware, driving armoured vehicles is an occupation that can often be fraught with danger. The delivery of cash to financial institutions and pay offices has always needed trained staff with adequate protection, both in equipment and numbers of personnel. In a push to reduce costs, Chubb Security Services has been insisting, no doubt at the behest of some of its big clients, such as banks, on reducing its costs, and in doing so a number of people have been placed at risk. The number of security officers and the type of vehicles that are used have changed. This has led to some horrific incidents.

    A cash transit route that had previously called for a three to four person armoured vehicle with an escort was reduced to a one to two person crew in a soft skin courier van. This vehicle was stopped as it slowed down to go over a speed bump. The two security officers were dragged out of the vehicle and bashed with baseball bats. This is not an isolated incident, but no previous incidents have been recorded on this route. The Transport Workers Union raised these concerns with WorkCover, and was very disappointed with the lack of action taken by that body. The union also wrote to the Minister for Industrial Relations, the Hon. John Della Bosca, and outlined its concerns. The letter stated:

    … union delegates met with management from Chubb Security Services where we were informed that Chubb had won a major new contract involving cash collections from Westpac business clients. We were further informed that as our safety standards were too rigorous the work would be contracted out to another division of Chubb known as Chubb Protective Services working under dramatically different safety standards.

    The letter went on to state that in some cases there was no training of staff at all. It continued:

    The potentially devastating effect on those involved in an armed robbery situation whether loss of life occurs or not should be clear, yet despite detailed evidence being provided to WorkCover to our knowledge no action has been taken other than an ongoing consideration of the matter.

    The customers of security firms are being ripped off. I am informed that Chubb Security Services employs a franchise that has great difficulty doing its job successfully on behalf of Chubb clients. This is due to the fact that the company has decided to change its standards. For example, Chubb recently took over Metropolitan Security Services [MSS]. All MSS cars carry control units to record the time and date of each visit to a site. That information was then downloaded and tracked by office staff during each shift.

    When Chubb took control of MSS, the Smartguard System was the first thing to be abolished. The reasons for that are clear: Chubb is ripping off its customers by not providing a proper service. An ex-employee of the company tells of how he was informed of a new client but, when he asked when he would start servicing that client, was told, “Don’t worry, you’ve been doing it for a month and you will be paid for that.” That company was billed for 27 days worth of work that was not carried out. There is no mechanism to identify whether the company is doing its duty.

    To sound impressive, Chubb tells its clients how many patrol cars are on the road to service them. However, that figure includes the cars of managers and supervisors, who are not on the road. Alarms that are activated out of hours are directed to an on-call officer, who must wake up, take the call, put on his uniform and then drive to the site. That is not acceptable when companies are paying for a service they believe will protect their premises. According to a previous employee, most zones are overloaded. I believe that WorkCover should investigate this company’s safety standards and that we should consider introducing a system to protect workers. This is a matter of grave concern to all those working in the industry.”

  30. Sorry Dave55 I was directing the last to yourself (29).

    TracieofFNQ

    I appreciate your comments

    Cheers

  31. John,

    The prosecution of Chubb was commenced in 2003 according to the Matter Number (there is a 2 year limitation period which means that it had to be at any rate). It often takes a couple of years to get OH&S Prosecutions through the Courts, particularly if the matter goes through a contested hearing as this one did.

  32. Dave55

    And Chubb contested it on the grounds that Punchbowl RSL carpark should not be considered a place of work. Ruthless and mean-spirited defense based on pure technicality?

    http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/MediaResources/MediaReleases/2005/pages/security_firms_fined_after_fatal_robbery.aspx
    “Chubb Security had argued that the RSL Club was not its place of work, however IRC Justice Staunton dismissed this defence, ruling that the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act applied equally to companies engaging sub-contractors.”

  33. John

    Don’t start me … (full agreement though)

    The COAG review of OH&S Laws released last week is interesting and will remove this workplace and employer/employee distinction if implemented. This will be replaced by duties of care to people affected by your undertaking (which is broader in application than a workplace).

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