Departmental bosses reportedly portrayed the employees on a computer screen as rats – but the Department of Human Services claims that it was simply a mistake involving newly implemented software.
The Canberra Times reported that amidst the ongoing battle with workers over pay and conditions, someone at the department added a new icon to the internal online platform used to record leave and absences.
The icon that symbolises workers who took a one-hour protected stop-work action is a rodent, and although the department argued that it is a mouse, employees believe it was the department’s way of comparing those who took part in the strike to rats.
According to The Times, some of the department’s workers are now demanding that the manager who chose to use the picture faces disciplinary action.
A DHS spokesperson said that the staff have drawn a false conclusion, as the icon was merely selected from those available on the department’s workplace software.
“The department uses a commercial scheduling tool to roster staff in some parts of the department,” said the spokesperson. “Icons are used to designate different schedule activities undertaken by staff, and given there are already 270 icons in use, a mouse was selected to ensure Protected Industrial Action was appropriately recorded in our system.”
The spokesperson added that the department had not intended to offend its workers.
“The selection of the icon was not intended to be disrespectful,” the spokesperson added. “We acknowledge it could be misconstrued, and the icon has now been changed.”
The Commonwealth’s largest department has further angered its striking employees by comparing them to rats.