Australia’s public Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) is a hybrid-funded broadcaster with approximately 80% of its funding derived from the government. Popular among the Indian diaspora community, it provides multicultural coverage across Australian states. It comes as a surprise that the diverse publicly funded broadcaster has come under repeated scrutiny for workplace bullying and more.
Pallavi Jain, a journalist in SBS’s Hindi language team, was hired in 2013 under Executive Producer Kumud Merani. Over the next six years, she made three official complaints about workplace bullying and harassment. However, it was Ms Jain who was dismissed in 2019 and not Merani.
In 2016, the Fair Work Commission found that Ms Merani had engaged in workplace bullying and harassment. Nonetheless, SBS failed to reassign Ms Jain to a different department. Ms Jain stated this led her to suffer from severe anxiety; so severe she feared for her life. An investigation by Comcare supported Ms Jain’s complaint and held SBS was responsible for her medical costs due to their failure to address the complaint(s). Ultimately SBS terminated the complainant’s contract of employment. Citing, they failed to complete a rehabilitation programme, and as she could not work under Ms Merani, they had to let her go.
It is reported by The Sydney Morning Herald that seven former employees corroborated Ms Jain’s claims; therefore, they were curious why she was the one terminated. This comes on the back of further allegations, namely, workplace bullying and racism leveraged at SBS by well-known broadcaster Lee Lin Chin. Lin Chin claims she resigned due to worrying complaints of bullying and a lack of diversity at the corporation. In addition, previous reporters of aboriginal heritage have also described a toxic racist working environment. There is an old saying that goes, “there is no smoke without fire”. Ms Jain is not seeking compensation and only seeks to have her job back. This will be decided before the courts this month. She criticised SBS for failing to settle the matter years ago and that their inertia in resolving the matter was a waste of taxpayers money. Quite true.
It will be interesting how Ms Merani fares in the matter(s) as it will give immigrants in Australia a sense of justice if she prevails. While we stress that the court has yet to rule in the matter, the decision will ultimately provide hope to those suffering from workplace bullying and harassment. Many Indian diasporas are working in Australian communities across the states. Those suffering workplace bullying, racism, or harassment, should follow up with the relevant bodies.
The Fair Work Commission is Australia’s national workplace relations tribunal and is responsible for administering the provisions of the Fair Work Act. Their powers and functions include dealing with unfair dismissal claims, bullying claims, unlawful termination, minimum wage disputes, harassment, racism, and more. Anyone who feels they need free advice, visit https://www.fwc.gov.au/ or call 1300 799 675.