'Tasteless' Milat joke angers workers

Tension is mounting at a Unanderra business where workers claim they felt intimidated by a manager who superimposed his own face on a photo of serial killer Ivan Milat and directed it be posted on the wall.

"We hear so much about standing up against bullying and harassment in schools and in the workplace, yet here we have an operations manager who sat down in work time, downloaded a picture of Ivan Milat, the killer, put his face on it and thought it was a good idea," Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) industrial officer John Stewart said yesterday.

The union claims manager, Michael Bradmore, directed the picture be posted above a palm scanner - installed recently after much controversy to keep better checks on employees when they arrive and leave for work.

"The fact that it was to be placed above a palm scanner, which workers had already fought hard against, is even more of a disgrace. The only inference from that is 'scan or else'," Mr Stewart said.

The 39 production and maintenance employees at Bisalloy Steel were reportedly angry about the machine's introduction and their union took action on their behalf.

Palm scan technology uses near-infrared scanning to identify people by the pattern of veins in their palms, which are as distinctive as fingerprints.

The "trust and honour system" had been "working well", with the senior co-ordinator on each shift responsible for making sure workers were completing their allotted shifts, Mr Stewart said.

The staff had resisted the change without success and the system had been operating until last week, when the alleged incident occurred.

"When we looked at the image we couldn't believe it. It was really troubling."

The company's managing director was notified, the union claims, and decided it had been taken out of context.

"We were told it was meant to be dark humour and the operations manager had apologised."

Workers were not happy with the company's response, so a week of negotiations followed, including a visit to the Fair Work Commission.

"We've been told the operations manager would be given a written warning and sent on training to correct his behaviour and would give a written apology," Mr Stewart said.

"But the workers had hoped the company would have come down stronger. They have let the company know they are not happy."

Mr Stewart said the company had vowed to further investigate and would report back on March 4 "with a way of going forward".

"In the meantime we've been told the operations manager will not be on site."

In an internal memo, obtained by the Mercury, the operations manager apologised to all staff about the poster he presented "depicting a character [Ivan Milat] with an image of my face superimposed on top of his".

"The wording was that everyone should remember to scan in and out from the site.

"This poster was subsequently handed to [a staff member] in what was meant to be a lighted [dark humour] joke.

"In hindsight I now realise this is in very poor taste and to anyone who took offence at this poster I apologise," the memo said.

Bisalloy Steel yesterday said the company had no comment to make and would not confirm what action had been taken.

Mr Stewart said the union had gone public because "intimidation" should not be tolerated in any form in any workplace.

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