July 03, 2007

How a union official reacted to a member who asked for no more legal assistance from the union

Dear XXXXX,

Thank you for informing me of your decision and I note also the email which you have sent to XXXX XXXX
[the union lawyer employed by a major legal company], copied to me, informing her.

I will write to XXXX to ask them to return all papers to you as soon as possible so that you can pass these to your new adviser.


As you have taken your decision it is not really appropriate for me to enter into lengthy discussion with you. I note what you say and your disappointment with what the union and our lawyers have been able to do for you has been evident for some time. However, much of the problem has been beyond our control:

* You joined AUT at a time when we were not a recognised union at CIA, had no branch and no local rep. [This is not what AUT stated on their web page]

* You had a conflict of interest with a NATFHE member, so that the local NATFHE and the regional office in Gateshead were involved in assisting that member. [Contrary to what AUT stated on their web page]

* As a result, even following the merger of AUT and NATFHE, UCU is still unable to provide you with an experienced local union rep or full time official support from the regional office in Gateshead which now covers XXXX. [So why pay membership fees?]

* In these circumstances, I have tried to provide as much support as possible through XXXX in Newcastle.

I understand how, in these difficult circumstances, you would feel disappointed with the type of service we have been able to offer. I wish you well with the hearings ahead and success and good health in the future.

With best wishes,
XXXX XXXXX
----------------------
And thus one more member became disillusioned... and wrote to Roger Kline and Paul Mackney:

"...I have been in touch with my AUT branch in Edinburgh (XXXX XXXX) – for some months now - who referred me to an Employment Law firm in Newcastle. David has tried to be helpful and has authorised funds for the lawyer to advise me. I understand that AUT has no rep in my town and XXXX – despite his support and good will - was unable to offer any other assistance. XXXX told me that AUT does not have a specialist consultant on workplace bullying, and I have found this very disturbing. Is this the case with UCU as a whole? It would be hard to accept that UCU does not have access to a specialist on workplace bullying. Academics are suffering in big numbers, let alone support staff. The evidence is not just anecdotal. I can refer you to numerous surveys and reports, including some from teaching unions, which confirm this disturbing trend.

The union lawyer has been helpful whenever I manage to get in touch with her. Over the last four months, I was able to meet with her twice. She has often told me that my union rep should take up day-to-day issues relating to my case, and ideally, the lawyer should look after the big picture.


Bottom line is that I have no regular support from my union, and I am fighting alone my case of institutionalized workplace bullying against my senior managers. I often have to make decisions on a weekly basis, but there is no assistance beyond a possible reply through email or a phone call. This is while I am dealing with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress caused by workplace bullying during the last few years at XXXX. I often have to refer to a legal advice phone line provided by my union. The usual waiting time is 2-3 hours during working hours. They try to be helpful but they usually refer me back to my union lawyer. There does not seem to be anybody available or qualified to deal with this case of workplace bullying.


The costs of workplace bullying not just to the union members and victims (targets), but also to our profession collectively must be phenomenal. The impact on our health has possibly never been estimated. Until this thing happened to me, I could only think of it as impossible. Now I live a nightmare. This is not just a general plea. I have some questions to ask. I seek assistance and justice.


• Does UCU have access to a specialist in workplace bullying? If not, when can I have access to one?
• It is not sufficient for Higher Education Institutions to have anti-bullying policies that are worth nothing. How is our union keeping accountable these institutions in terms of how they are applying their policies? Do all employees run awareness sessions and workshops open to staff? How often?
• Does our union have a programme of training reps and other appropriate union members, to recognize and deal effectively with workplace bullying? How is our union proactive in dealing with workplace bullying in our profession?..."

No reply was received.

1 comment:

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