Dodgy employment practices at the Embassies?

By 7 August, 2011 9

The Sydney Morning Herald has a scary article on peculiar employment practices by Embassies who consider themselves to be above the law, because they pretty much are.

It’s all well and good for government departments to repeat their policy that diplomats are subject to Australian law, but until they’re willing to make some arrests it’s all a bit of a joke as the piles of unpaid traffic fines can attest.

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9 Responses to Dodgy employment practices at the Embassies?
#1
The Frots10:10 am, 07 Aug 11

I’ve heard that there are a couple of ‘well known’ Embassies down here in Canberra that may have some issues as well.

#2
Watson12:20 pm, 07 Aug 11

I worked at an embassy over 10 years ago and they are pretty awful places to work at. Locally hired staff are usually better of than the staff hired by their countries’ foreign affairs departments. They are usually aware of their rights, but still, their employers often try to twist the rules. They will regularly try to bribe them into accepting conditions that do not comply with Australian workplace laws by giving them extra holidays and shorter work hours for example. When a new ambassador arrives, they often add a holiday or knock an hour off their weekly hours to gain the cooperation of the staff.

My experience with ambassadors is indeed that they think they are the law. Lots of them are spoilt autocrats, used to a life of luxury and ceremony and unable to do the simplest things for themselves.

The foreign staff are told they are subject to the laws of their country but they get little or no support from their department. Even just getting advice on their rights proves to be almost impossible, so they feel they just have to comply with whatever the ambassador decides and keep their head down. Bullying and patronising is rampant in this environment. So is sexism, from my experience. There are very few female ambassadors or diplomats but a majority of the secretarial staff are female. It creates a very patriarchal environment.

I hated working there. It was the only job I ever got sacked from, but walking out of there was a very happy moment!

#3
Henry8212:41 pm, 07 Aug 11

Not surprised really, you provide an unregulated workplace and people take advantage of that. Same applies to their vehicles.

#4
The Frots1:10 pm, 07 Aug 11

Watson said :

I worked at an embassy over 10 years ago and they are pretty awful places to work at. Locally hired staff are usually better of than the staff hired by their countries’ foreign affairs departments. They are usually aware of their rights, but still, their employers often try to twist the rules. They will regularly try to bribe them into accepting conditions that do not comply with Australian workplace laws by giving them extra holidays and shorter work hours for example. When a new ambassador arrives, they often add a holiday or knock an hour off their weekly hours to gain the cooperation of the staff.

My experience with ambassadors is indeed that they think they are the law. Lots of them are spoilt autocrats, used to a life of luxury and ceremony and unable to do the simplest things for themselves.

The foreign staff are told they are subject to the laws of their country but they get little or no support from their department. Even just getting advice on their rights proves to be almost impossible, so they feel they just have to comply with whatever the ambassador decides and keep their head down. Bullying and patronising is rampant in this environment. So is sexism, from my experience. There are very few female ambassadors or diplomats but a majority of the secretarial staff are female. It creates a very patriarchal environment.

I hated working there. It was the only job I ever got sacked from, but walking out of there was a very happy moment!

A friend of ours worked for a particular embassy and was subjected to the most horrid bullying and harassment – most of it by the local Australian staff though. She had an extreme time there and was glad to see the door close behind her.

She said that some of the local employee’s try and build their own little kingdom’s – mainly because that will be the only job they can get. The APS has some interesting stories about some of the Australian staff (prior histories of bullying, harassment, etc) so their odds of getting any real employment outside of the embassy becomes very limited.

#5
JessP2:34 pm, 07 Aug 11

You want to try working for a Union……

#6
Jebediah8:20 pm, 07 Aug 11

I worked as a driver for an embassy a few years ago

They were always looking for ways to cut back on paying the local staff.
They ended up cutting back paying overtime as much as possible.
Work hours were 9-5.
They decided 8:30-9 we would be heading to work anyway so working then was not overtime. 5-5:30 we would be driving home so that was also not overtime.
We also had to lie about our reasons for overtime if we were doing private work for them so they wouldn’t get in trouble.
It was not uncommon to find out at 3pm that you would not be finishing before 10pm with no time for meal breaks in that time.
I’ve been given less than 24 hours notice of an overnight interstate trip

I was one of the better paid drivers. Many working for other embassies did not get anything for working the overtime, it was just expected, even on weekends

Holidays would not be approved until the day before you were supposed to travel, if you were lucky

Some of the staff were really nice to us but the ones who weren’t overruled those who were.

#7
JC10:20 pm, 07 Aug 11

To those that have worked in Australia for foreign embassies how about naming and shaming. The way you are talking makes it seem like all are like this, which I doubt very much, so name those that aren’t playing by the rules.

#8
milkman8:03 am, 08 Aug 11

JC said :

To those that have worked in Australia for foreign embassies how about naming and shaming. The way you are talking makes it seem like all are like this, which I doubt very much, so name those that aren’t playing by the rules.

It will be interesting to see where the pressure on RiotACT starts coming from…

#9
The Traineediplomat4:15 pm, 08 Aug 11

Australian Embassies overseas are bound by both local labour law and the Australian law comes in ontop as a “Better Practice Guidelines” kind of idea. Can be a pain in the butt when the two laws are mutually exclusive!

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