Unite need to try and work more closely with employers organisations to overcome the issue of workplace bullying.

The Unite Union has claimed today that incidents of “horrendous” workplace bullying have risen sharply as businesses struggle to deal with the impact of the ongoing earthquakes in Christchurch.

Unite Union organiser Matt Jones says his organisation has been flooded with calls from members, especially since the 22nd Febraury earthquake.

Matt Jones says cases of abuse have been reported across all sectors, including retail, call centres, fast-food, and security.

“It has been extremely difficult to keep up with the number of cases of bullying we have to deal with. People are incredibly stressed during this difficult time and we’re working closely with employers to get the issues resolved quickly.”

Jones accused many employers of “stone-walling” the union as it attempted to resolve the incidents.

He called on businesses to recognise the pressure on managers and staff, respond promptly to complaints and provide anti-bullying training and support.

“The disappointing thing is that some employers seem to have a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude.

“Giving someone an extra dollar or two an hour and giving them a badge doesn’t equip them to deal with the reality of running a work place.”

“During this crises period the failure of some of the biggest employers to train and support work-site management in dealing with the fallout at work has become alarmingly clear.”

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend many employees across Christchurch were showing “classic” signs of post-traumatic stress.

He said common problems included short tempers, intolerance, dizziness and shortness of breath.

Those complaints had worsened since last weeks 5.6 and 6.3 magnitude aftershocks – increasing incidents of bullying, he said.

“That event has had a really major psychological effect on our community.

“It’s just about as hard as it can get around here… For a lot of people, there’s just no fuel left in the tank.”

“It’s really beholden on employers to provide a supportive environment.”

He rejected Jones’ allegation employers were not responding to bullying complaints quickly and effectively.

“We’ve had no reports like that. That’s what you would expect from a union.”

“I’m certainly not seeing poor behaviour on the part of employers. We’re seeing some really good responses to a stressful environment.

“Employers are stepping up to the plate.”

Townsend said many Canterbury employers were also dealing with severe stress.


This is one of those times where everyone needs to pull together. Management and workers are all under stress and this often manifests itself in verbal outbursts usually over something trivial.

Unite seem to feel that by publicising they might force Employers to take more poistive action when dealing with staff and reports of workplace bullying.

Having had some personal experience of what a ‘big one’ in Christchurch feels like I can feel some sympathy for both sides of the argument.

Things like workplace sensitivities pale into insignificance for employers trying to deal with personal stress plus grappling with how to keep their businesses afloat.

Workers need to cut some employers some slack, but employers in turn need to take some time to reflect on what their employees are going through ‘after hours’.

Employers and employees need to stick together. One side taking out their frustration on another is only going to add to personal and organisational stress that for many is already off the chart.

It is easy to point the finger at Christchurch employers, but in situations like this the ‘normal’ rules are hard to apply.

The organisations that can take a lead in dealing with instances of workplace bullying as a manifestation of earthquake related stress are the nationwide retail chains and serivce industries that have branches in Christchurch.

They can ensure that employees and managment in those areas are receiving the extra support and reassurance they need.

If we can’t turn the temperature down in the workplace then the problem is only going to get worse and someone is going to get hurt.