By Steph McNicol –
MACEDON Ranges Shire Council is calling for help from the Municipal Association of Victoria after the escalation of bullying allegations against councils statewide.
Macedon Ranges Shire Mayor Janet Pearce said it was time to act on work-related and work-based cyber bullying, intimidation and threatening social media commentary, which has been experienced by local government employees and elected members.
“We have seen this issue escalate over the past years. It’s about acting to protect people,” Cr Pearce said.
“We have a responsibility as council and councillors, as employers, for doing all in our power to ensure a safe work place and environment – that is not just physical safety, it’s also mental health.
“This needs to be a combined effort with all three levels of government to address this. In the broader context, I have heard from some councillors in Victoria who have personally experienced this.”
The Municipal Association of Victoria, established in 1897, works to support local government and protect their interests and rights for the benefit of Victorians.
Cr Pearce said negative online behaviour towards government employees would not be tolerated.
“Threatening and intimidating behaviour should and will not be tolerated. Personal attacks and hostile posts are not the way to move forward and resolve situations,” she said.
“Social media can be used in a positive way to communicate and provide information.
Please think about what you are writing and the effect you are having on people.”
Macedon Ranges Shire Council chief executive Margot Stork said if council became aware of bullying of staff members online, it would take the necessary steps to have posts removed or amended.
“Council may also take further action, such as reporting the posts to the social media channel concerned and/or taking any other steps necessary to ensure the occupational health and safety of staff is protected,” Ms Stork said.
Cr Pearce said transparency in council decision-making was important when they were posted online.
“When there is misinformation or only part of the story is circulated, this leads to confusion in the community,” she said.
“It is important for council to have transparent decision making and this makes it very challenging.
“We encourage community members to contact us directly for information or view our official channels.”