July 18, 2009

Colleges shell out €7m for bitter internal staff disputes

Irish colleges have wasted in excess of €7m dealing with bitter and complex internal staff disputes despite the recession, new figures obtained by the Sunday Independent reveal.

Several universities have been involved in lengthy disputes with members of staff and new information reveals an alarming number of bullying and harassment claims from within the country's leading colleges.

Well-placed sources have revealed that over 30 complaints of bullying and harassment are being investigated in several of Ireland's colleges.

Fine Gael's education spokesman Brian Hayes has called on Education Minister Batt O'Keeffe to force the colleges to engage in mediation before wasting money on expensive court cases.

Last week, Dublin City University went to the Supreme Court to try to sack one of its professors, despite being told in the High Court that it acted illegally. To date, DCU has spent around €1.5m in costs and legal fees to deal with the case in which it sought to dismiss Professor Paul Cahill, who disputes the college's claims.

Athlone Institute of Technology has spent over €840,000 in dealing with complaints of bullying and harassment since 2000.

A total of €841,190 was spent by the institute since 2000 on costs relating to the handling of allegations of bullying and/or harassment, including one out-of-court settlement amounting to €54,450. The €840,000 was spent on administration of eight formal complaints of bullying/harassment lodged with the institute, meaning an average of €105,000 was spent in dealing with each case. The institute said that no informal complaints of bullying or harassment had been made since 2000.

The total cost included €340,246 on legal fees, €140,778 on investigation and mediation fees, €291,909 on stenography services and €13,357 on the hire of facilities.

Trinity College Dublin has for several years now been embroiled in a costly dispute with one of its most distinguished English academics, Dr Gerald Morgan. To date the college has said that its legal fees on the case amount to over €100,000 but it is thought to have spent more than €300,000 on the Morgan case. Dr Morgan has denied any wrongdoing.

A number of years ago, University College, Dublin, handed out over €40,000 in payments to a staff member who accused one of her male colleagues of harassment.

This money was on top of significant legal and other associated costs racked up in the handling of the case.

Brian Hayes, Fine Gael's education spokesman, said it is no longer acceptable that the taxpayer should have to shell out on these lengthy disputes and called on Mr O'Keeffe to ensure such rows are not allowed to fester.

He said: "The only ones who win are the lawyers and those who get the payouts. Why the hell should taxpayers be expected to pick up the tab for all this mess?"

Mr O'Keeffe's spokesman said that there are considerable processes in place within the colleges to deal with such bitter disputes, but conceded that sometimes they can be costly to deal with.

He told the Sunday Independent: "People have rights and they're entitled to due process. We must always respect and appreciate that. Allegations of bullying and harassment, by their nature, can sometimes be lengthy and costly to investigate.''

"Of course, it would be desirable that any employer, whether public or private sector, would strive to have well developed human resources structures in place in order to avoid such cases arising in the first place," he said.

From: http://www.independent.ie
Does HEFCE, or UCU or any other relevant body for that matter, have any figures on how much money English HEIs have wasted on dealing with complaints of bullying and harassment? The figure is likely to be much higher than €7m...


Anonymous said...

This kind of information in the public domain is invaluable to those of us who feel that we are battling on our own in our institutions - feeling completely unsupported by UCU.

I have been very interested to see how the local UCU members at my uni have immediately swung into action about redundancy - letters to top management/meetings being called etc etc. Of course redundancy is very serious - but then so is wpb - and they have done nothing about that - not one meeting - not one letter - just watched me suffer while they watch in silence.

It is interesting that in this country it was union action that contributed to the private members bill that led to Dignity at Work - but the union involved was not our union... they still remain strangely silent.

Times Higher have done more to address the issue of workplace bullying in the public domain than UCU - Sally you should be ashamed of yourself... your silence while your members suffer... and what about the economic costs - we have on here the figures for Ireland that have been gathered...what about the figures for England... it would be interesting to compare.

This is the kind of information that we need to support a growing public campaign... particularly when universities are making people redundant ...while they spend money on caes such as those listed here.

In solidarity

Aphra Behn

Anonymous said...

Yet another meeting... the thing about wpb in academia is that it is so subtle and so difficult to detect...

...yet the bullies know what they are doing

...and I know what they are doing

...and no-one else can really be bothered to find out

... even if they are supposed to be carrying out an investigation

... remember Carl

...remember me

...remember all those other people who you are failing to help

It's bloody hard going

Believe me I may understand why carl did what he did...

...sometimes death is all that is left to make a point

...to say



...as she skips down the road

Aphra Behn