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Ombudsman launches worrying ‘spy on your boss’ app

The National Farmers’ Federation is alarmed at an initiative of the Fair Work Ombudsman that will undermine trust between employers and employees.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) developed and launched the "Record My Hours" app, which uses geo-fencing to record employees work activities and send their records to their “preferred representative”.

The app includes GPS tracking and an in built camera feature to assist employees build an evidence case against their employers.

National Farmers' Federation (NFF) Chief Executive Tony Mahar said it was concerning the FWO, through the development of this app, was pitting workers against their bosses and effectively questioning the integrity of all Australian employers.

“One of the FWO’s primary functions is to promote harmonious and cooperative workplace relations.

Encouraging employees to spy on their bosses and email confidential information, electronic records and photos to the union or the Ombudsman is hardly consistent with this function.
Tony Mahar, Chief Executive Officer, National Farmers' Federation

“Nor does it seem an appropriate role for a government regulator to play. While we support the Fair Work Ombudsman’s role in ensuring compliance with workplace laws, this needs to be done in a way that encourages productive workplaces, not undermines them."

Mr Mahar said it was disappointing employers were not consulted in the development stage of the app.
 
“There are plenty of ‘working-hours’ apps already available that do not use electronic surveillance without employer consent.

“We understand the app was in development for six months in consultation with employees yet at no time were employers engaged.”

Mr Mahar said agricultural employers were not aware of the app until the NFF was made aware of its existence at which time the NFF immediately requested more information about the app’s functions and role.

“Given this lack of consultation and transparency we call on Employment Minister Cash to intervene and ask the FWO to withdraw the app immediately pending urgent consultation with the business community,” Mr Mahar said.

Horticulture lobby group Growcom was also surprised about the lack of consultation, especially as it was working with the Ombudsman on a Fair Farms initiative to tackle worker exploitation.

"We understand their need to find tools to manage this situation …we understand that there is a problem and we want to be part of the solution. It would be nice to be at the table and part of the conversation," Growcom Chief Advocate Rachel Mackenzie said.

There's a certain bad taste in my mouth about a spying app that we haven't really had any consultation around.
Rachel Mackenzie, Chief Advocate, Growncon

Growers are worried the app could be manipulated by disgruntled employees and used against them even if they acted legally.

References:

NFF media release, Ombudsman launches worrying ‘spy on your boss’ app, 17 March 2017

ABC Rural, Fair Work's Record My Hours app should be withdrawn says National Farmers Federation, updated 20 March 2017

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