By Debbie Andalo, Tuesday April 24, 2007. EducationGuardian.co.uk
The privatisation of university services and the problem of bullying in higher education will come under the spotlight at the inaugural congress of the University and College Union (UCU) next month.
Issues around academic freedom and cuts in adult education have also been included in motions to be discussed by the 400 delegates expected to attend the three-day event in Bournemouth which starts on May 30.
...The union's joint general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: "The first congress will set the tone for the largest post-16 education union in the world, and really allow us to start working to represent our vast membership."
The UCU was formed in June last year following the merger of the Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe).
From: Univesity and College Union (UCU)
Topic: Inaugural UCU Congress, 30 May - 1 June 2007: First report of the Provisional Congress Business Committee including motions submitted
Summary: Motions submitted for debate at the inaugural meeting of UCU Congress and Sector Conferences to be held 30 May – 1 June 2007 in Bournemouth
Contact: Catherine Wilkinson, senior administrative officer firstname.lastname@example.org;
'...Congress recognises that bullying and harassment are particularly likely to affect women, LGBT, BME and disabled members, hourly paid members and other members who are perceived as vulnerable. While it is recognised that UCU may have to advise, support and represent both sides in this type of case, it is particularly important that the person alleging bullying and harassment, particularly when a woman, LGBT, BME or disabled person is given the best possible advice, support and representation and feels that they are taken seriously.
Congress instructs the NEC to issue advice on handling of bullying, harassment and violence against women and minority group members and recommendations for policy measures to prevent it...'
OK, so the 'Congress' asks the 'NEC' (National Executive Committee) to 'issue advice'... Further down we read:
'Bullying in post 16 education (Bradford College). Congress notes:
1. surveys indicating growing management bullying in education, often related to workloads, restructuring, marketisation, and management aims to boost productivity;
2. huge costs in terms of staff turnover, sickness and burn-out where managers ignore the work/life balance and fail in their duty of care to staff;
3. bullying is not an individual’s problem but the responsibility of the institution to stop and the union to resist.
1. to launch a major training campaign for UCU members and reps to fight bullying and harassment;
2. to organise a national conference on bullying and harassment;
3. to encourage UCU branches to collectivise anti-bullying action in post-16 institutions by:
a. organising bullying and harassment surveys;
b. negotiating anti-bullying policies and making them work through regular monitoring and training;
c. where this fails, organising collective responses including the declaration of collective disputes and ballots for strike action.'
Further down we also read:
'Equality in universities (Northumbria University)
Congress notes with concern the lack of priority given by
We are particularly concerned that
- many universities have not fully implemented the legal requirement for a Race Equality scheme, i.e. have not carried out Race Equality impact assessments
- the Stonewall Diversity champions table suggests a lack of attention to LGBT issues in many Universities.
Congress is asked to support:
- the election of an Equality Officer in every UCU Branch
- a national network of UCU Equality Officers with an annual conference and regular training sessions
- an audit of bullying and harassment in Universities
- equality being raised with the national employers with the demand for an urgent review of the issue in universities.'
And we continue reading - further down:
'Bullying (Nottingham Trent University, Clifton)
Sector Conference notes that Bullying is a seriously damaging problem within HEI’s. It can occur in a wide variety of different ways between managers, employees and/or students. When bullying occurs it often results in poor performance, stress, sickness absence and leaves very unpleasant feelings for the people directly involved. Bullying is certainly not needed in any educational institution and should not be tolerated in any form whatsoever.
Therefore Conference resolves that awareness training should be provided by both the institutions themselves and within UCU. Also,that harassment procedures exist within all HEI’s to deal effectively with this serious issue. Furthermore UCU should ensure that policies and procedures on this topic are disseminated widely and effectively across the sector within a high profile campaign to increase awareness of the damaging effects caused.'
With some disbelief, we continue reading...
' Workplace bullying (University of Birmingham)
Conference notes the growing incidence of alleged workplace bullying in HE institutions, often associated with RAE outputs, unreasonable research, teaching and administration targets, erosion of accountability and transparency in university governance, and unaccountable and reprehensible practices in management, recruitment and promotions.
Conference welcomes the 2006 House of Lords ruling on the case of Majrowski v Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust, which will make it easier for an employee to bring a bullying-related claim against his/her employer under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and obtain damages for anxiety caused by the harassment, and any financial loss resulting from it.
Conference instructs Executive to issue guidance on the implications of this important case to all regional officials, LA/branch committees and personal casework officers.
Conference further instructs Executive to work with UCU's Legal Office to bring cases before the courts for work-related bullying in HE institutions.'
We are speechless... but we keep reading:
'Stop Bullying in Higher Education (Kingston University) - HE Sector Conference.
Kingston University calls upon the UCU to organise a national campaign against Bullying in Higher Education.
This should include:
- code of conduct to be sent to all UCU members which should inform our conduct towards fellow members;
- agreement of a new national UCU Anti-Bullying Policy which branches can use in negotiations with local employers;
- management should ensure that staff are provided with a clear alternative channel of complaint if they prefer not to raise the matter with their Head of Department;
- a demand that employers record, monitor and review bullying complaints and the outcome of bullying cases on an annul basis. That this information should be shared with the local UCU branch;
- that employers review their anti-bullying training for senior staff and require all senior staff to regularly attend such courses.
Some brief comments on the above:
Lots of encouraging rhetoric - 'Why did it take so long?' one can ask. But then again, we are up and running now... One small step towards the right direction, perhaps the start of many more significant steps...We support what is proposed. It is in many ways a vindication that bullying is firmly on the agenda of the inaugural congress of the UCU. We are looking forward to the outcomes.