Union 'concern' at Polley claims

THE unions backing a Tasmanian Senator at the centre of bullying claims say they are concerned at the allegations, but it's too early to say if they will pull their support.

But sources say some unions have started to pull back.

"It's not a good look for the Labor Party," one union representative said.

Launceston-based Senator Helen Polley is a member of the Labor right and backed by the Australian Workers Union and the Shop Distributive and Allied Workers Alliance.

Union sources have told The Examiner that union powerbrokers are concerned about the look of supporting someone accused of bullying staff, and are waiting to see how the issue plays out.

Proximity to the state election is understood to be causing some angst in Labor Party ranks, with concern that the issue might "besmirch" the brand.

But Tasmanian Labor secretary John Dowling rejected that suggestion, and said the allegations - which are disputed - did not detract from the party's record on workers' rights.

"This case clearly demonstrates that it doesn't matter who you are or who you are involved with, a worker can have their complaint heard," Mr Dowling said.

The Examiner reported last week that Senator Polley had been investigated by Commonwealth workplace relations body Comcare after three staff had claims - in which they alleged she had bullied and harassed them - approved for compensation.

A forth former staff member has now filed for compensation and a group of former staff have sought legal advice about bringing a class action against Senator Polley.

Senator Polley has rejected allegations of bullying and said she had worked through recommendations made by Comcare to improve working conditions at her office.

SDA Tasmanian secretary Paul Griffith said he spoke to Senator Polley after the story broke and accepted her comments, that she rejected allegations made against her.

Mr Griffith said he had no personal knowledge of the matter.

The AWU national branch last night declined to comment on whether it would withdraw support.

Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, whose power base is the AWU, also declined to comment.

Senator Polley would not say whether she had spoken to Mr Shorten or senior ALP figures about the bullying allegations.

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