November 30, 2006

Academic unions have their head in the sand...

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I care but I'm too frightened to do anything about it...

but in the end they may come for you...

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon said...

First, you can share your experience and remain anonymous. Second, indeed 'they' may come for us, but what is it that 'they' would want from us? To remain silent? And would 'they' want the publicity if 'they' come for us? We still live in a free country and not Stalinist Soviet Union. If we stay within the Law, there is nothing to be afraid off. 'They' have more to loose than us...

Anonymous said...

The words that I wrote were in response to the speech bubble in your cartoon... (not very clear I see now)) .. It was the voice of the Union - in particular the voice of the Assistant General Secretary of the UCU who 'supported' me before he left for another post a couple of months ago. Interestingly when he knew he was leaving he wrote a relatively strongly worded letter for me to copy to the Director. I made it clear when I sent the letter that it came from the Assistant General Secretary of the UCU...before that he was quite reluctant to do much...maybe from fear....

I think he had a conscience but I guess couldn't do very much - one can speculate why that might have been..

The words about 'coming for you' are echoes from a poem which I can't remember properly.... about coming for the Jews and no-one helped... etc etc.

This is a great website - but feels a bit risky writing to someone who is annonymous

But thanks for all the info' - - keep up the good work...

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon said...

OK, so the Assistant Secretary of an academic union said "I care but I'm too frightened to do anything about it... "

Yes, indeed one can only speculate why he was quite reluctant to do much. Perhaps because he knew how the system works, or does not work...

Yes, in the end - sadly - somebody may come for you, or you, or you, and if good men [or good women] do nothing, then evil will succeed.

Regarding my/our anonimity, for the time being it is necessary due to outstanding and evolving scenarios. In time however, we intend to reveal who we are - this is a promise.

This blog is a labour of love from a small group of academics who are in the system - you simply have to trust us.

Please do come back and share with us any other relevant info and experiences you may have.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Thanks...Liz

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon said...

The offer is open for you to contact me at bullied.academics@yahoo.co.uk, and I want to hear what is happening at your institution and if I can help expose things without compromising you or others...

Sue Blackwell said...

Pierre-Joseph, I think your cartoon is unfair. As a UCU (formerly AUT) casework officer I deal with cases of workplace bullyng constantly. Union officials and lay activists like myself spend a lot of our time and energy trying to support bullied academics. The main problem has been that until recently, workplace bullying was not in itself illegal: it was only illegal if it was discriminatory or could be shown to cause personal injury (very hard to prove in law). Thanks to the Majrowski ruling in the House of Lords, that should now change.

all for now,

Sue Blackwell
UCU, University of Birmingham

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon said...

Dear Sue,

I have no doubt that good and active union members like yourself and perhaps many more, are indeed interested to support your academic colleagues and work against workplace bullying. You and the other active members of academic unions, is not the problem.

The problem is with the leadership of the our academic unions (AUT + NATFE = UCU), who for many years remained inactive, and in many cases caused harm. I speak not only from personal experience.

Please do not promise that due to the Majrowski rulling things will improve. What of the many who lost their jobs and their health - like myself? How is the damage repaired? I will never be able to practice my job anymore. This is the end of my academic career.

Our union reaction was and is so formulaic, that it has become predictable sadly.

The case below highlights the normal pattern:

"The behaviour of the AUT and their solicitors (Thompsons of Edinburgh) in relation to my case was abominable. It may seem counter-intuitive, but I felt considerably less stressed once I had decided to represent myself than when I had been represented by the AUT's solicitors. The solicitor who initially handled my case failed to advise me that I could have filed my initial claim under the Public Interest Disclosures Act, 1998. This failure had significant ramifications for the way the case was subsequently brought. The same solicitor failed to pass information from ACAS (the Arbitration and Conciliation Advisory Service) to me or from me to ACAS, thus prejudicing the possibility of a settlement without going to an employment tribunal. He also repeatedly failed to reply to my queries. At one point (when the University submitted a large dossier of papers) the case seemed to become too much for him and he passed it on to a junior colleague. She then sent a report to the AUT which managed to get the reason for my resignation wrong and made so many other misrepresentations that I had to send a nine page list of corrections to the AUT's legal aid committee. It was to no avail. The AUT decided to go with the solicitors misrepresentations, conveniently allowing them to avoid funding a potentially lengthy hearing.

The main thing that I learned from my correspondence with AUT officials and their solicitors was that the union subscriptions I had paid since 1986 were a complete waste of money. I urge all AUT members to think very carefully about why they are subscribing to this union and to consider cancelling their membership. I will make the correspondence available to any AUT member who is interested to consult it in London.

Should either the AUT or Thompsons Solicitors wish to contest what is on this page, I am more than prepared to answer them. If necessary, correspondence can be put up here."

And some more cases:

'...After 2-3 years of inaction and no support from my union, with the last few months on medication and receiving mental health councelling, all this while on suspension because I tried to expose institutionalised bullying, and while I watch the serial bully being promoted and taking over my office, I very reluctantly decided to write to the top persons in my union a very polite letter reminding them that I have not received the support I needed. This is the reply I received: "Our union does not have a specialist on workplace bullying to deal with your case now. We do not normally use any specialist consultant..."

'...After the TUC (Trades Union Congress) I will be writing to the ILO, and then last I will resign my union membership making sure that the media know why...'

'...The trade unions already see, realise, understand the plague of bullying in the workplace. They are quite happy with it. That is the way things are meant to be. One man's [or woman's] workplace bullying is another man's [or woman's] strong management / flexible workforce mantra...'

'...It is one thing to have my employers not understanding bullying, and it is another thing if the union itself is ignorant...'

'...I have no doubt that unions and TUC are hopeless [with workplace bullying]. I still think it is worthwhile showing the world how hopeless they are - at a cost of a stamp...'

'...The TUC general secretary will say that he has no powers to intervene in the affairs of an individual trade union. The TUC is simply the trade union's trade union... I would have been relatively happier if my trade union had maintained indifference. They ended up working against me by destroying and delaying documents, passing confidential info to my employers, all sorts of things...'

'...I have first hand experience of one particular union that has sat on its hands twice, in cases I have seen and been involved in. That union of shame is XXXXXX. No wonder so many health workers live in fear, there is no protection whatsoever...'

'...The actions of my union have damaged my mental health and sense of trust far worse that the bullying of my employer...'

Dear Sue, I have no problem accepting that perhaps - as I stated above - you are indeed very active and very concerned about workplace bullying, and as a UCU activist you are perhaps trying hard, BUT we do have a very long way to go, and I for one have paid a very heavy price for the inaction of my union, which left me with NO representation for over 8 months!

The pain of loosing your job, your colleagues, bullying, intimidation, etc, etc is something I can't describe, and all my union rep did was refer me to a web page...