Monthly Archives:September 2018

Bullying claims: Glendal Foods workers (from left) Hiep Nguyen, Nuong Nguyen, Quyen Le, Lieu Phan and Huong Vu.ALMOST half the staff at an inner-city gourmet food manufacturer – which makes food for Ikea, Qantas, Costco and other high-profile clients – have spoken out about alleged extreme bullying in their workplace.

Eighteen staff out of 38 at Glendal Foods in Brunswick have accused their employer of allowing bullying to go unchecked, despite numerous complaints and the involvement of a trade union.

The alleged bullying among the staff, most of whom speak little English, is said to be so intense that one worker harmed herself two weeks ago. She was admitted to the Western Hospital, where doctors later asked WorkSafe to become involved. The authority is now conducting an investigation.

Another staff member alleged a heavy trolley was pushed into her belly while she was pregnant.

The 18 staff took the unusual step of speaking publicly about the alleged bullying, which they said had gone on for at least six years, because they hoped doing so would help their situation. The workers said management at the plant had, among other things, allowed a senior staff member to:

■Regularly scream at them and make sexual and personal comments.

■Tell workers they needed to give 48 hours’ notice if they wanted to take sick days.

■Demand staff work overtime on any day, without any notice.

■Tell any casual worker who became full time they must ”celebrate” by buying lunch for the entire workplace, or buying a supervisor a gift.

■Ban any contact with the company’s owner.

■Keep the wages of some employees for up to eight weeks.

Qantas and Ikea confirmed on Friday that Glendal Foods was among their suppliers but declined to comment further. Costco could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

Glendal Foods makes items such as samosas, filo pastries, soups, curries and casseroles for its many clients.

It is owned by Chandra Kanodia, a chef who opened the Phantom India restaurant in Swanston Street, Carlton, in the 1970s.

Most of the bullying complaints centre on one supervisor, Van Phan.

In the most serious case, staff alleged Ms Phan had succeeded in pressuring most to pay her – in cash – 10 per cent of a backpay payment made to them in July after they signed a new workplace agreement.

Ms Phan declined to discuss the allegations on Friday, although she said employees who gave her a cut of their backpay had given it as a gift. ”They were happy to do that,” she said.

After the union became involved, the company asked Ms Van to voluntarily pay back this money.

One employee, Hiep Nguyen, said she had been instructed, when given a full-time job with the company, to shout the entire factory lunch, because ”it was the rules”.

Ms Nguyen said she was threatened with the sack if she did not do so.

”I am a new arrival. I came to Australia legally. I work, and pay tax and try to be a good citizen. But because I have really limited English, I don’t know a lot of rules. And for someone who has been here a bit longer than me to make my life really difficult is not fair for me,” she said through an interpreter.

Few Glendal Foods employees had been members of the National Union of Workers (which covers some food manufacturing) until August, when a complaint was made to the union by Ms Nguyen, who also contacted the federal government’s Fair Work Ombudsman, which in turn referred her to WorkSafe.

Another employee, Quyen Le, said she had been regularly yelled at by Ms Phan, who had also pushed a heavy trolley into her belly while she was pregnant, so forcefully she thought her baby had been harmed.

All of the employees alleged Mr Kanodia knew the bullying was happening but ignored it.

Mr Kanodia declined to discuss the allegations, although he said WorkSafe was investigating. ”WorkSafe will take care of this; the allegations are going to be sorted out by them,” he said.

Asked why so many of his staff had complained of bullying, he said: ”They are all union members, are they? That says something, don’t you think?”

Later, he issued a brief statement saying his company was concerned about the matter and taking it very seriously.

National Union of Workers organiser Monique Segan has regularly met staff at Glendal Foods since August.

She said the bullying was among the most extreme the union had seen, and that raising it with Glendal Foods had exacerbated problems. After this, the workers had decided to tell their story publicly.

The case will throw a spotlight on laws passed last year by the Baillieu government that were aimed at tackling workplace bullying but that the state opposition says are doing little to help protect the most vulnerable.

Opposition spokesman on WorkCover Robin Scott said the community had made it clear there was no tolerance for bullying in workplaces, but that the Baillieu government’s anti-bullying laws had failed to result in any prosecutions.

Government spokeswoman Fiona Telford said the legislation introduced last year gave police more powers to investigate and had made clear that threats and abuse could now be prosecuted. Labor had failed to introduce any laws like it, she said.

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Mental health month: Hunter events

ZORICA Ciganovic has been through a great deal in her life, but one of her biggest battles has been anxiety.

Ms Ciganovic, of Newcastle, was a Serbian living in Croatia when the war in Yugoslavia broke out in the 1990s.

She was seven months’ pregnant when she and her family were forced to flee to Serbia at a moment’s notice to escape genocide.

Her husband needed dialysis three times a week and they had to find him treatment throughout the war.

She lost friends and close family during that time.

Her husband died 15 years ago and Ms Ciganovic and her family came to Australia as refugees in 2004.

Once here she had to learn the language and brave the cultural barriers, while caring for a family member with a mental illness.

She said being a carer was one of her biggest challenges and it was only once she came to Australia she developed anxiety.

“You don’t have any friends, you don’t know where to go, what to do,” Ms Ciganovic said.

“Your heart starts beating a lot, your hand trembles and you get that choking feeling.”

She said she would not have recovered without the help of the mental health support group Arafmi Hunter.

Now she is in her fourth year of a social work degree.

Ms Ciganovic has spoken of her challenges to highlight living with anxiety during Mental Health Month.

Mental health issues affect one in five Australians and anxiety is the most common problem.

“It’s important to know how much people can survive and still be functional,” Ms Ciganovic said.

“You can function if you find the right help.”

She said that while anxiety was a normal response to stress, it was not normal to feel anxious all the time.

“Anxiety is a fear of fear,” Ms Ciganovic said.

“If a person is isolated it just increases it”, and it “is not predictable”.

CALMER WATERS: Zorica Ciganovic knows a lot about being anxious. Picture: Peter Stoop

Ms Ciganovic encouraged carers who were struggling to get help.

■ARAFMI Hunter: 49616717


The 14,868 fans at Hunter Stadium wanted a goal, or at least a sterling performance, from English marquee man Emile Heskey.

But after their first look at the former English Premier League star, many would have left Turton Road dissatisfied.

Heskey played at the point of the Newcastle Jets attack and during the first half struggled to get involved as his teammates provided him with little quality service. The veteran striker looked strong and reasonably fit, occasionally muscling away defenders to get the ball and lasting 25 minutes longer on the pitch than coach Gary van Egmond had intended.

Van Egmond said it would take time for the other players to learn how to best use the former Liverpool man.

‘‘I thought his contribution was great,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘He’s a real target man up front. You see a number of times where people can look to play the ball in and look to run off him, and we need to get better at that.

‘‘Not only in a position of where the ball is going into him and the same person is getting the ball back, but the third man running, and the next person running into space as well.’’

Heskey had only one sight of goal, a half-chance in the 49th minute when right back Scott Neville dinked a cross into the box and the Englishman could not get enough on a glancing header to trouble the keeper.

Heskey arrived only 10 days ago and was always going to lack match fitness.

He was replaced in the 70th minute by Newcastle product James Virgili, who immediately fired two shots at goal.

‘‘He was wanting to stay out there for 95 minutes, but we have to be a little bit careful with him and we probably went over a bit today,’’ van Egmond said.

‘‘He’ll have recovery now, a massage and a day off and back on the training paddock.

‘‘I was looking for half a game, to be honest with you, but he has such a will to play.’’ Van Egmond worked hard in the pre-season overhauling his squad and bringing in a host of younger, faster players to play a high-tempo, possession-based game.

He said he had not changed his philosophy after the arrival of 34-year-old Heskey, a traditional target man.

‘‘He’s enhanced our game plan, if anything,’’ van Egmond said.

Adelaide coach John Kosmina was impressed with Heskey and said his potency was minimised his central defenders Antony Golec and Newcastle-bred Nigel Boogaard.

‘‘I thought Antony Golec, in particular, did a real good job on Heskey,’’ Kosmina said.

‘‘Boogs did well and competed physically and didn’t give him too much room.’’

Emile Heskey. Picture Darren Pateman


The carbon tax has likely peaked as an issue but Labor will wear the cost of its political damage.THE carbon tax likely peaked as an issue before the price actually started – indeed, its first three months have been an anti-climax.

But Labor will continue to struggle with the political damage it has done since Prime Minister Julia Gillard started dancing with the Greens after the election.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, on the other hand, having had the best of times with the debate, faces harder work from now on. He still seeks to keep the tax as centre of his campaigning, a strategy that might need to change in coming months, especially if Labor continues its modest poll recovery.

Abbott also has to explain precisely how a Coalition government would scrap the tax, with all the messy consequences of having, in effect, to ”compensate” voters for the withdrawal of their present compensation. Those questions will become sharper as the election approaches.

And remember, Abbott is committed to the enormous step of a double dissolution if he can’t get the tax repealed – an undertaking that may look rash if voters and businesses seem less concerned about the tax’s impact.

The climate issue, which helped Kevin Rudd surf into power in 2007, turned first against him, contributing to his downfall, and then against his successor.

In the Age/Nielsen poll, support for an ”emissions trading scheme” was consistently high in 2008-09 – about two-thirds of voters favoured one. But then support fell in 2010. The ”carbon tax” has never had majority backing.

Nielsen pollster John Stirton identifies two ”tipping points”: ”the apparent failure to reach agreement at the Copenhagen climate change conference, which made it easier for opponents of action on climate change to portray Australia as going it alone, and the emissions trading scheme morphing into carbon pricing – the carbon tax.”

After Copenhagen, support for an ETS dropped 10 points to 56 per cent (in February 2010).

Backing for ”a price on carbon” began at 46 per cent in October 2010 but crashed after becoming closely associated with Gillard’s pre-election statement that there would be no carbon tax. It fell to 35 per cent in March 2011, and was 37 per cent in last month’s poll.

What’s happened, in the broad, over the last few years is that climate change has turned from an emotional rallying cry to a practical policy challenge with all the accompanying difficulties.

Even more important, at the micro level the debate became somewhat less about carbon pricing and somewhat more about ”trust”.

Once the tax started on July 1, things changed again, as people focused on how they personally are affected.

Beforehand, 51 per cent feared they would be worse off, but after a short period of the ”lived experience” (Gillard’s phrase) 38 per cent say they are worse off and a majority, 54 per cent, say the carbon tax is making no difference.

Nationals NSW senator John Williams insists the carbon tax issue is still potent, with higher costs disadvantaging businesses such as a big exporting abattoir at Inverell, and ”more bad medicine to come” when in 2014 the diesel fuel rebate is reduced.

But West Australian Liberal Mal Washer says: ”We beat the drum too hard on the carbon tax – everyone has stopped listening to the sound of it. The marrow has gone out of it – we need to move on to other issues.”

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