June 13, 2010

Workplace bullying rife in the sector, union claims

One in ten have suffered physical or violent abuse, while 41 per cent report intimidation, UCU study finds

Two-fifths of further education employees have been bullied at work in the past sixth months, with one in ten reporting violent or physical abuse, according to a report by the University and College Union (UCU).

The incidence of bullying is far higher than in other industries, the union said. And, according to the report, managers and supervisors are responsible for much of the problem.

Overall, 41 per cent of FE respondents to the UCU survey carried out in November 2008 said they had been bullied in the preceding six months, compared with 34 per cent of those surveyed in the higher education sector.

The report, Who Listens? Bullying in Further and Higher Education, compared its findings with those in a survey of bullying across different occupations and industries in Britain in 2000 which found that 11 per cent of people had been bullied in the preceding six months.

But despite the reported incidence of bullying in FE, 69 per cent made no official complaint. Of those who did, 52 per cent who had been bullied by another employee said the response of their institution had been “bad or very bad”.

The report found that 72 per cent of those who had been bullied blamed managers or supervisors, compared with 33 per cent who cited other colleagues, 7 per cent who said it was subordinates, and 6 per cent who blamed students.

The most likely forms of bullying included: being given tasks with unreasonable or impossible deadlines; being given an unmanageable workload; and being subject to excessive monitoring of work.

Other types of bullying included: being humiliated or ridiculed; being asked to do work below levels of competence; gossip and rumours; and having opinions ignored.

Ten per cent said they had experienced violence or physical abuse in the previous six months, with 2 per cent saying they experienced this sort of bullying on a monthly basis. One in ten reported unwanted sexual attention.

The Association of Colleges’ (AoC) employment director, Evan Williams, voiced concern about the sample size of the survey, as only 324 FE employees responded, and said that it was two years out of date. [Imagine that!]

“The agreement on bullying and harassment was drawn up in 2008 and AoC jointly ran roadshows with the unions to raise awareness of these issues among employers and unions,” he said.

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “The level of bullying in further and higher education is alarmingly high. With both sectors facing huge cuts and the very real possibility of heavier workloads, it is essential that robust measures are put in place to support staff.”

Nadine Cartner, director of policy for the Association for College Management, representing some 4,000 FE managers, said the association was producing a handbook aimed at addressing the problem.

“Good colleges, by definition, seek to deal with and eliminate bullying through values of respect, openness and courtesy, together with a zero- tolerance approach when bullying occurs,” she said.

From: http://www.tes.co.uk


From the report:

Lack of confidence in UCU

Didn't believe the UCU would be supportive (others filed complaints & union not very supportive). (HE)

I am scared to use the union as in my experience from a range of colleagues things became worse and UCU were unable to prevent anything so I'm worried that if I make a complaint this will lead to further unjustified intervention in my work and my life at work will be even worse than it is at the moment and the bullying will continue...

...If you have reported any form of bullying from individuals employed by your institution, how satisfactory was the response of your institution to your complaints? Of those in further education who reported any form of bullying from individuals employed by their institution, only 26% said the response of their institution to their complaints was fairly or very good; 52% said the response was bad or very bad. Of those in higher education who reported any form of bullying from individuals employed by their institution, only 15% said the response of their institution to their complaints was fairly or very good; 57% said the response was bad or very bad...

...Have you ever witnessed bullying at work over the last five years? 73% of respondents in further education said they had witnessed bullying at work over the preceding five years, compared with 67% of respondents in higher education...


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Anonymous said...

UCU is Utterly Completely Useless. They do not care about bullying or harassment or discrimination, especially when the member concerned is not a British citizen. My case an unprecented, historic case of administrative mobbing in UK academe, one that potentially impacts every academic working in the UK. It is a story that needs to come out of the closet to the national media. CAFAS has described it as a 'very important' and 'ground-breaking' case, 'unprecedented in the UK'. And yet, the UCU Regional Official just wants me to shut up and settle and refuses to bring it to the attention of the National Office. Why? She refused to tell the University about the CAFAS publications (anonymous) about my case. She said it is not UCU's business to tell the University what CAFAS thinks about my case! UCU is in bed with senior management, and the more prestigious the University (mine is a Russell Group uni) the greater the stake in keeping the peace and silencing the UCU member. It is a union in name only. It does not fight for its members. It is unconscionably cowardly and sickeningly complicit with senior management in the destruction of UK academics who have suffered egregious victimisation and administrative mobbings in the aftermath of their complaints of bullying, harassment, and discrimination.

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Such type of incidents are happens in students regular life and they should come out and closet to the National Media. And i agreed about your opinion for UCU management. its completely useless for our promotion. Ban bullying, harassment, and discrimination.

Anonymous said...


I work for a big Russell group university in Northern England.
This comment is about both racist bullying and general bullying of staff who are perceived as gentle, sensitive, kind and therefore easy targets. These abrasive personality trait type of people that i talk about here, often hone in on gentle people and take out there aggression on them as they see the qualities of gentleness, softly spoken, caring, empathy, high sensitivity and compassion as weaknesses.
I work in a support position and I have been shouted at and verbally abused by my so called ‘colleagues’. I am male. I am gentle caring polite person. I find that a lot of staff in the administrative, technical and other support type positions esp. the lower grades are local northerners who appear to have limited cultural capital and lack education. I do not mean all northern people who are local to these ex industrial cities of course, that would be absurd, as a lot of them are lovely kind people, however there is a good percentage that are as I have described and employed by the University. They deal with people in a very abrasive manner and I have witnessed a lot of racism from these people and preferential biased treatment of white students over ethnic students in particular those from South Asian, Middle Eastern and East Asian. I have complained and raised this intolerant aggressive yob type of behaviour to higher management who have turned a blind eye. It has upset me and hurt me deeply on a personal level and on humane level.

A very interesting recent case of racism against non white students at the University of York illustrates some of what I’m saying.

An East Asian student contacted me recently and complained about some serious racism and bullying towards him and other non white students from mechanical staff. He was so distressed that I instantly referred him to council ling that were extremely helpful. I hope it prevented psychological injury. However there are other students who are suffering the same fate. Again I raised this with higher management but my email was ignored. I have been intimidated by some of these locals working at the university myself through body language and tone of voice. A clear signal that they do not like me, even though I do not work directly with them.

It is disgusting and sick that this University relies so much on international revenue from students and that it is meant to be an open, cultured place of learning, yet underneath this glossy marketed veneer lies a rotten core. I really hope this gets exposed.

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