Unit concerns

FIVE of Kerang State Emergency Service's long-serving unit members have transferred to a neighbouring unit following allegations of bullying and safety breaches.

The volunteers, who the Gannawarra Times has chosen not to name, cited issues relating to the location of a camera at the Tate Drive headquarters and operational practices as key reasons for leaving the group.

Members allege a camera had been installed in the unit's headquarters without the unit's knowledge, with the camera overseeing an area where people usually change into their orange rescue outfits.

However, the groups were informed that other cameras were to be placed within the headquarters, as well as planned locations.

"We weren't told for several weeks, then we noticed it there," one volunteer said.

"We were informed something had been stolen – never told what – just that something had been. No consultation was had with the rest of the unit [about that camera]."

The group are also concerned regarding breaches in Occupational Health and Safety standards, with allegations new members were able to go out and assist with unit callouts without sufficient training

"It puts [community members] at risk because these rules are there to protect people as well as ourselves," one volunteer said. 

"That was brought up on a few occasions with regional management and they just keep trying to shift the goal posts." 

The disgruntled members put in for transfers after they say several failed attempts were made at reporting their concerns.

"On the 'Reason for Transfer' application I put discrimination and bullying. They sent it back with a copy of the Code of Conduct, saying it wasn't an appropriate way to raise it," one of the volunteers said.

"They never added 'this is the proper way to lodge the complaint' - we tried other ways. There was no where to turn, and no contact numbers [on the letter]."

Unit controller, Glyndia Gee referred all matters to the SES' Melbourne-based headquarters regarding the issues raised by the local members.

A SES spokesperson confirmed there had been no Occupational Health and Safety breaches during Mrs Gee's tenure as unit controller and rebuked one of the aggrieved member's claims of bullying.

"The volunteer first raised the complaint of bullying in the application for transfer, and not in any HR process readily available to volunteers to address these matters."

"The letter of response from VICSES advised that the issue should be communicated through the correct processes as per VICSES HR policy," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also specified the location of the camera in question is a truck storage area and not a changeroom, with changing facilities located away from the garage section of the unit's headquarters.

"Members were advised in January 2018 of the installation of the cameras in the garage and the reasons why they were required, relating to theft in the unit," the spokesperson said.

SES management will send a Department of Justice representative to oversee mediation efforts between the 17-member local unit and the five aggrieved members.

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