January 31, 2007

At last an acknowledgement from one of the candidates for General Secretary of UCU - Roger Kline mentions the 'B' word

Saturday 27th January 2007

Question: Big Brother, bullying and post 16 education

“Bullying appears to be an acceptable form of management in our college. What would you do about it if you became general secretary?”

Lynne, Manchester FE lecturer
Answer by
Roger Kline:

The Health and Safety Executive estimates that bullying costs UK employers 80 million lost working days and £2 billions in lost revenue

Bullying is widespread in post 16 education. Numerous surveys including the most recent UCU stress at work survey (Link to press release) have demonstrated how widespread it is. Bullying is incompatible with a collegial management or a learning environment.

Some managers seem to think that Rambo style management is effective. The growing climate of fear amongst senior management, especially in further education, makes it likely that such practices will increase unless challenged.
[So will they be challenged?]

As head of equality and employment rights I have ensured we have developed a range of work around bullying.

Firstly, your employer should have a Bullying and Harassment Policy or Dignity at Work Policy. UCU’s web site at
www.natfhe.org.uk/?entityType=Document&id=150 has a model policy. We want every employer to agree such a policy with UCU. [Agreeing is one thing, implementing and monitoring is another.]

Secondly, a bullying culture is a breach of the Health and Safety Executive Management Standards for Stress (
www.hse.gov.uk). A survey – jointly with management if possible - using the HSE model survey will confirm the scale of bullying and which departments are especially bad. [Good idea, do we have any volunteers?]

Thirdly when individuals feel they are being bullied they must start to record what is happening and alert their local representative. It is very unlikely that such individuals are the only ones being bullied.
[True, but what happens after one alerts the local rep can be an issue.]

Finally, bullying often has discriminatory overtones linked to gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and so on. Whilst it remains very difficult to pursue bullying cases through the courts, the link with discrimination may make it easier to force your employer to act in case legal action is taken. However it is much, much better to take these issues up collectively if possible rather than assume there is easy legal redress.
[So what happens to individual cases?]

An excellent guide to tackling bullying at work, co-sponsored by UCU has just been published by the Equality challenge Unit, on whose board I sit. It can be downloaded at
www.ecu.ac.uk. [Thank you for the guide.]
From: http://roger4gs.blogspot.com/

Did he answer the question?

The other candidate for the position of General Secretary (Sally Hunt) has not mentioned the 'B' word yet.


Anonymous said...

The policy document contains the word "should" 56 times. Whilst there is no legal requirement to conform to this or any workplace dignity policy, the union is in a position to monitor and disseminate information about workplace bullying incidents. Do they have the will to turn "should" into "watch out"?


Anonymous said...

There was a time when my contract contained a clause forbidding the discussion of salary and benefits with my colleagues. The unions took it upon themselves to publish national comparative salary reviews with what I can only see as beneficial effects. We all know what we are paid and we know why others are paid differently (even if we don't agree). Pay and benefit abuses are (I imagine) very difficult to perpetrate.

Anonymous said...

Bullying is not the heart of this problem, corruption is. Bullying is the facade.

Exactly how will Roger Kline's acknowledgement, crowded with known statements, change the present scene in academia?

Part of the problem is AUT's collusion with institutions? does he address this?

Anonymous said...

In my university we had a work survey over 2 years ago which revealed which departments are a problem. I went to speak to HR to say that I was one of the people being bullied - working in one of the depts that was identified as a problem...

To date little has happened - the bullying has continued.... and remember that there are many forms of bullying.. some so subtle...

I continue to fight on with UCU ....by my side?????

Watched by the silent witnesses...

Remembering the wonderful colleagues who left...

...appalled by such behaviour...

Is this a responsible way to be spending public money?

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon said...

I think we heard it from the horse's mouth or at least from Roger Kline, that he prefers to address issues collectively - in effect an individual does not have the full support for his/her case of workplace bullying in academia.

Remembering the wonderful colleagues who left, and the wonderful learning opportunities for students also lost. The toll is so high...

Anonymous said...

A story left on Roger Kline and Sally Hunt's website.....

There are lots of stories like this in this series.. some end in suicide... not a happy ending eh Roger?

Roger - I know that you are only interested in collective stories about bullying.. but I thought you might be interested to read the story of an individual that I posted on Sally's website....

Sally - here is a part of someone's story... are you interested in publishing stories like this?

Prolonged negative stress is becoming recognised more and more as a factor in many illnesses/ medical conditions. In my experience many people I have worked with do not even dream of putting themself through what can be the long ordeal of reporting bullying/ harassment. Many people I have worked with have been quite understandably in fear of doing so, and the increased pressure that this may put them under when they are already in a very stressful situation. I however did report it and I cannot imagine why anyone would put themself through this process unless they truly felt they had a genuine complaint. Always at every turn though the bullies have tried to discredit me and have insisted that I provide 'proof'. It seems to me in my situation where it is clear my health has suffered that is a more a case of them proving otherwise against the weight of medical evidence.

I and others at the organisation I work for would not have documented years of numerous bullying and harassment incidents and the effects this has had on health, performance etc. unless it really happened. Neither, I am sure would there have been such a vast increase in complaints, sick leave, resignations and early retirements either. The smaller details all make up the bigger picture.

In my own case I can see looking back that the only way I was able to go to work was to detatch myself from the reality of what was happening, although this was not something I wanted or intended it was the only way at the time as I had to have income. I took very little sick leave until recently but have medical records covering the whole period. The bullies first demanded to see these, they then changed direction stating on more than one occassion their own 'medical' opinions.

I too have my own story with a similar theme?

Do such individual stories of UCU paid up members interest you?

Roger Kline only seems to be interested in collective stories... maybe they are not so harrowing...

Petra Boynton contacted you after her research into bullying was published in the Times Higher in 2005 to say that AUT/UCU members feel that the union colludes with employers...

Did you respond to her?

What did you say?

UCU is part of this story Sally... what is their role?

Anonymous said...

Posted on Roger Kline and Sally Hunt's blog

Some rough figures: It is estimated that 14-16% of the British workforce experiences workplace bullying. In a union with a membership of over 100.000, this translates to over 14.000 members...