Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hail The Whistleblower!

Mark Reed: without whistleblowers, all of us would be subject to gross corporate and governmental abuses

Price-fixing. Corruption. Abuse. Murder. Neglect. Infant Mortality. The Tuskeegee Syphilis Experiment. The Iraq Report. The Enron Scandal. Deep Throat. $400 hammers. $600 toilet seats. Abu Ghraib. Swiss banks losing records of Holocaust victims. The General Belgrano.

What do all these have in common?

Without whistleblowers, none of us would know about them. They'd still be Capitalism's Dirty Secret.

In your job, you probably have a duty. You have a duty of responsibility to your employer to do the job you're meant to do. You have a duty to the people you work with to do the best you can do. And a duty to the people you serve to ensure what you and other do is done right.

If you're a janitor, your job is to minimise corporate risk. In a way : an errand boy paid to clean up the mess of others. Whistleblowing is just an act of corporate housecleaning. It may be ugly, and vicious. But it is also a necessary part of our lives if faced with it.

In fraud cases, where we have instances of people committing fraud, if you suspect fraud and do nothing about that, you are implicated. You are offering silent assent.

At work, where there are cases of malpractice, cases of ethical breach, caes of poor service or delibrate poor customer care, that is a failure to perform the job, and therefore, disciplinary procedures.

Unless you're a whistleblower. If you're a whistleblower you're often persecuted for failing to accept offensive and dangerous corporate behaviour.

Whistleblowers are those who, according to some, try to sabotage their employers for personal glory. Often, they are ruined : sacked or fired, demoted to a desk in the Lunch Room with no staff, at best. Homeless, ruined, broke, bankrupt at worst.

Whistleblowers are those who are, I suppose, what one could call corporate conscientious objectors. Those who perhaps, and probably, tried to alert authorities to malpractice and corporate failure, and found those with the power to change the situation wanting. Those who value their souls more than their security.

The world needs whistleblowers : they are our heroes. They are those who, when faced with the unacceptable, took a stand at some personal cost for the good of others.

They filmed malpractice in nursing homes and were sacked. They revealed that profit is more important than health : and were sacked. They exposed torture : and were crucified.

Every employee – unless numbed or scared – has a duty. Imagine if your employer dumped toxic waste into the river you drink from. Imagine if your neighbour knew that : and didn't do a thing about it. Imagine if cancer ate you from polluted carcinogens that a Tobacco manufacturer refused to remove as it would cost them profits link. Imagine if those carcinogens can from your mothers 60-a-day habit.

Whistleblowers work in environments where reasonable steps to alert responsible individuals – managers, directors, MP's, whomever are ignored. It serves the needs of the Grand Fromages not to expose or reveal cases of mispractice in many cases. I've worked in environments where this was the case, and I know of people who were hounded out of a job through misuse of procedure in an environment where they were whistleblowers. Those who exposed malpractice were discredited and destroyed.

I'm not the only one. There are at least fifteen countries where whistleblowers are not protected in law. Journalists found mysteriously dead. Contractors talking late at night into telephones who then slid on black ice into freezing rivers. Shot dead in the streets by security forces for exposing corruption. Dead.

Whistleblowers do so not because it was easy, but because it was right. Anyone faced with an incident where they have exposure to malpractice, and do nothing about it is failing in their duties as a human being.

The policemen who did nothing as Ian Tomlinson was beaten? The nurses who ignored the obvious pleas of suffering, starving pensioners? These were those who turned a blind eye and allowed human suffering to endure. On their conscience is human pain and sometimes, death.And, as the cliches goes, all it takes for bad people to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

No business or organisation should be afraid of whistleblowers : but cherish them.

Without whistleblowers, no one would be aware of the facts of the Jean Charles De Menzies murder. An anonymous person in an office risked their career – and they lost their career – because they saw what they could no longer abide. They witnessed malpractice, corporate and institutional abuse, and the consequences of their ethics – valuing human beings over corporate abuse – were such that they lost their jobs.

The laws should be changed to enshrine and protect the rights of whisleblowers : and not just strengthened, but made illegal, and not only that, but the employment of any whistleblower legally protected so that their employment can only be terminated by an independent commission. So that what is right triumphs over corporate abuses. Because a human being is just one person, and all it takes to endanger human beings into silence is to threaten them.

Without whistleblowers, all of us would be subject to gross corporate and governmental abuses, and most of us would not be able to do a damn thing about it. Just shut up, and silently suffer the cold hand of an unseeing and uncaring God.

I praise the whistleblower : they are the voice of the conscience this world often lacks, and they should be protected to the utmost ability of the law from unjust corporate revenge.

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