The boss of a major provider of fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers to WA mining operations has conceded the company failed to protect women from sexual harassment on worksites.  

Key points:

  • Five Macmahon workers have been sacked after sexual harassment allegations were made against them this year
  • Macmahon says it has changed the way its rosters run for supervisors to prevent sexual harassment
  • Macmahon CEO Mick Finnegan says an industry-wide register of offenders was legally complex but would aid the company’s screening efforts

Appearing at a WA parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday, labour and equipment contractor Macmahon Holdings chief executive Mick Finnegan agreed the company’s previous efforts to screen prospective employees and keep records of sexual harassers had failed female workers.

“When there’s one case of sexual harassment it means that it hasn’t worked,” he told the hearing.

In September, the inquiry heard allegations a 33-year-old Macmahon truck driver, Astacia Stevens, had been propositioned for sex by a superintendent in exchange for making a safety investigation go away.

Mr Finnegan would not comment on specific cases but said he had read media reports about them.

“We certainly have seen what was put out in the press and it’s incredibly confronting, all of those testimonies and the most disturbing or disappointing thing is that those victims didn’t feel confident enough or safe enough to report those issues,” he said.

A man in a grey suit and a woman in a black suit sit at a table.

The inquiry was set up by Liberal MP Libby Mettam.(ABC News: Eliza Borrello)

Outside the hearing, he said he was disappointed the alleged incidents happened in the first place.

“First and foremost, prevention is our priority,” he said.

Macmahon updates prevention measures 

Mr Finnegan told the inquiry Macmahon’s existing prevention measures included carrying out police clearance checks on prospective employees, maintaining its own register of sexual harassers so it did not re-employ those that had been dismissed for such offences, and allowing staff to anonymously report harassment.

But he said the company had also recently changed supervisors’ rosters.

Macmahon Holdings head office in Perth.

Macmahon Holdings employs 7,000 people in Australia and overseas.(ABC News: Eliza Laschon)

“We now have a situation on some sites where supervisors run a different cycle than the team,” he said.

“So the teams are actually dealing with different supervisors across different cycles.

“So if heaven forbid one is abusing that imbalance of power, they do have another supervisor at another period of time that they can talk to and communicate with.”

Five Macmahon workers sacked this year

Macmahon’s general manager of people, Nicole Hamilton, told the inquiry there had been 11 reports of sexual harassment at the company in 2021, up from two the previous year.

She said five of this year’s reports resulted in employees losing their jobs.

One of the biggest suggestions for policy change discussed by the inquiry has been whether an industry-wide register of sexual harassers should be developed so offenders cannot move between companies.

Outside the hearing, Mr Finnegan said it was a complex area legally but could help the company tackle sexual harassment.

“I think industry would appreciate a bit more clarity on how to report, when to report, who to report to,” he said.

“And as difficult as it is, if there is a register that could be done legally, it would help us with background checks.”

Posted , updated 

FIFO labour company sacks five workers for sexual harassment
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