Airport ‘hostile’ to women

TWO female air traffic controllers have accused their government-owned employer of allowing ”extreme” sexual discrimination and bullying, with claims a manager told one of the women to have an abortion with a coathanger.The women are seeking more than $1 million each in damages from Airservices Australia as part of an action in the Federal Court in Melbourne.”What the proceedings I think will do is to shed some light on a workplace culture that has been extraordinarily hostile [to women],” said their lawyer, Josh Bornstein, a principal at Maurice Blackburn.Mr Bornstein said a separate action would be brought in the Human Rights Commission.Both women, Jacki Macdonald and Kirsty Fletcher, have been long-time employees of the male-dominated Airservices Australia at Melbourne Airport. The women say they were exposed to pornography that a manager distributed around the office and suffered regular bullying and abuse.They also allege they were denied access to training and professional development, were belittled for being pregnant and were the victims of false allegations. When they both separately complained in April and May 2008 they were ignored.In a brief statement, a spokesman for Airservices Australia did not reject or respond directly to the claims. ”The matter is being taken seriously by Airservices management. Our investigations have only just been completed and the matter is in the hands of respective legal advisers,” he said.Ms Macdonald, who fought back tears as she spoke yesterday, said she had worked for more than 18 years at the organisation and the harassment had caused her and her family great distress.She said when she told a manager she was pregnant in 1996, he told her that did not suit the roster and that he had ”a coathanger in the back of his car”. When she later complained she was told the manager had had ”a bad day”.That manager has been sacked, but Mr Bornstein said it was too late and other senior managers should have done much more.
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