September 22, 2011

Dr. Claudius D’Silva

As you know, we (UCU) protested in July against Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) management’s decision to dismiss our branch colleague Dr. Claudius D’Silva for taking a race discrimination case to the employment tribunal. We recognised the dismissal as a serious blow to justice and fair treatment in our workplace. Dr D’Silva, who has a significant and extensive academic profile, was a Senior Lecturer in Chemistry and Environmental Science at MMU from 1993 onward.

We called on the Board of Governors to demonstrate MMU’s commitment to fair employment practices and to reinstate Dr D’Silva to his previous position without loss of standing or earnings.

We also urged the Board of Governors in July to ensure that the university’s disciplinary procedure was not used to undermine the provisions of the Race Relations Act. We urged them to move to restore the good name of MMU in the field of race equality. We also urged the Board to investigate bullying and the use of ‘gross misconduct’ charges against employees at MMU.

We are deeply saddened to report that a panel of the Board of Governors confirmed the dismissal, stating that all was in order.

The university’s final decision poses a threat to all employees at MMU who exercise their employment rights and in particular those who choose to complain about race discrimination.

Judicial Review

We can report that Dr D’Silva is seeking a judicial review of MMU’s actions and that legal papers have now been served on the university. A judicial review provides a legal avenue to challenge violation of one’s rights by a public body.

The Administrative Courts have issued Dr D’Silva’s claim and the university is required to file acknowledgement of service of the notice and provide their summary grounds of defence with the Court by the end of the month. We hope and trust that the Court will grant Dr D’Silva permission to bring judicial proceedings.


Thank you to all those supporters who sent emails of concern and protest to the Board in July. It appears that those emails did not actually reach members of the Board (and this is a concern for the branch in terms of communication with the Board). Thank you to those supporters who protested outside the Board of Governors’ meeting. Thank you to those people who signed the online petition at calling for fair treatment and reinstatement of Dr D’Silva.

One moving statement on that online petition came from one of Dr D’Silva’s colleagues, Dr Gordon Nicholas, who also stood in protest outside the Board meeting on his final day at MMU before retirement. Dr Nicholas said: Claudius has been a valued Chemistry colleague of mine for many years. The decision to air-brush Claudius out of the RAE several years ago was vindictive, astonishing and short-sighted given his ability and reputation as a researcher. I understand that about one million pounds has been spent by the University in their legal battle with Claudius. I consider this to be a shocking misuse of precious financial resources – the result of gross incompetence by a management more interested in the closing of ranks than supporting an aggrieved member of staff. Effective handling of this affair could not only have saved a lot of money but also avoided the devastating impact that this case has had on the life of my colleague.

Professor Phil Scraton, criminologist of Queen’s University Belfast, wrote: It is a fundamental principle that those who believe that they have grounds to bring a case against an institution can do so without fear of reprisal. The Tribunal should be the place of decision and both sides, in agreeing to the process, should abide by its decision. If, as it appears, the institution punishes the complainant for taking the complaint it amounts to a gross infringement on their right to take a case. It also sends a severe message to others who might have a discrimination case. All efforts should be made to resolve this case and the institution should take the initiative and reinstate Dr D'Silva and allow external due process to decide on the case.

We continue to support Claudius – his career, health and livelihood should never have been so meanly attacked. We honour his determination and fortitude and we hope that he wins justice soon.

You can send a message of support to Claudius at

Walter Cairns, UCU Branch Chair, Manchester Metropolitan University

September 17, 2011

Nothing has changed at Canberra Institute of Technology

Juliana Knight couldn't sleep, she cried constantly and was afraid to leave the house. For her, life was anxious and frightening, the simple task of driving a car too onerous to consider. But then one day the terrified creature started to fight back and demanded justice.

Knight and her former Canberra Institute of Technology colleague Patrick Reubinson have decided to speak out on behalf of a group of former and current CIT staff who say there is a culture of bullying and harassment at the institute.

They have finally gone public following successful Comcare claims for psychological damage and because they say they have nothing left to fear. (The pair were two of four successful Comcare claims for psychological damage.) Meanwhile, WorkSafe ACT is still investigating seven complaints against CIT after the watchdog issued improvement notices on three separate work areas at the institute earlier this year.

The complaints, legal bills and pay-outs may be stacking up, but the CIT's chief executive, Adrian Marron, says ''he was not, and is not'' aware of any culture of bullying and harassment at the institute - although he was made aware of the allegations which are being investigated by WorkSafe.

''Nobody has made a formal complaint to us and we don't have any formal complaints on record,'' Marron says. ''It's inevitable from time to time that there will be incidents and personal issues and they may seem to some people to be one thing and to someone else another. I don't see bullying and harassment as the fabric of CIT.''

But bullying and harassment in the workplace comes at a high cost - a 2010 Productivity Commission report found that 2.5million Australians experienced some aspect of bullying during their working lives. The report found that bullying and harassment in the workplace costs the economy about $15 billion a year, and the issues are not properly addressed in occupational health and safety laws.

The multi-billion dollar bullying black hole did not include the hidden costs, such as hiring and training employees to replace those who left because of workplace stress. The report also found that workplace stress claims tended to be more costly than claims for less serious physical injuries and resulted in more time taken off work. And time is running out for government departments to stamp out bullying, harassment and workplace stress.

From next year successful claims such as Reubinson's or Knight's could open government to multi-million dollar lawsuits and this has prompted the head of WorkSafe ACT, Mark McCabe, to put all government departments on notice.

Under current Health and Safety regulations ACT Government departments and Commonwealth public service departments cannot be prosecuted for breaches of occupational health and safety legislation.

''That's about to change at the end of the year [because] harmonisation protection for the public service will disappear and they will become prosecutable just like any private company,'' McCabe says. ''It should send a warning bell to other departments; what I've been trying to say to departments is you will become prosecutable from the end of this year - you need to make sure your house is in order.''

Patrick Reubinson speaks with a thick Gloucestershire burr, but his voice breaks and tears well in his eyes when he talks quietly about his love of teaching and imparting skills. He gesticulates and his hands are well-used. Not as rough as his father's, he quickly explains. It was Reubinson's blue-collar upbringing that made it hard for him to accept he was suffering psychologically in the workplace. It wasn't like a broken arm or leg - it was much more insidious.

Reubinson devoted his career to teaching. But the litigation took its toll on his health and family. For almost three years he lived away from his wife. The retired chef says the CIT is keeping its eyes firmly shut to the problem until the WorkSafe decision is handed down. He says four Comcare court cases which found staff had suffered serious psychological harm as a result of employment at CIT should be ringing alarm bells.

While the Commonwealth Comcare scheme operates under ''no-fault'' legislation, Reubinson says there is a clear link or pattern to the claims. Reubinson was unsuccessful in his first claim with Comcare, but a hearing in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal subsequently upheld his complaint.

''Either the AAT decided with the complainants, or Comcare conceded, and the only reason Comcare conceded is because they know they are going to lose and that these things did happen,'' he says.

No-fault means that an injured employee does not have to prove negligence on the part of their employer for their claim to be successful, but it must be clear on the balance of probabilities that the injury occurred or disease arose in the course of employment. For a claim for a disease to be successful, the employee must show that the employment contributed to a material degree to the contraction or aggravation of that disease.

The former cooking teacher says he decided to speak out about his experience because he was afraid it would be swept under the carpet. He welcomes the WorkSafe investigation but wants its scope extended.

''I think there has to be an investigation conducted at the highest level outside of CIT.''

The Federal Administrative Appeals Tribunal ordered CIT to compensate the 55-year-old after his treatment during a 2008 complaints investigation process left him with adjustment disorder and depression, and he was unable to work.

''My blood pressure went through the roof, I had to go on medication - these things are not good.''

The tribunal found that the CIT's actions after two students accused Patrick Reubinson of inappropriate language were unreasonable, untoward, misleading and without procedural fairness, and he was paid $152,000.

Juliana Knight, 61, says mismanagement, bullying and harassment by her employer, the CIT, almost killed her. The former occupational health and safety teacher succeeded in a claim for compensation and rehabilitation for a psychological disorder, after an incident at CIT left her unable to work. Knight worked for the educational provider for more than 20 years. Her last day at work was February 23, 2009. She has been medically retired and is in the pursuing action which will see she is paid 75 per cent of her annual wage until she turns 65. Her doctors say she will never recover and won't be able to return to useful employment.

With her husband at her side for support the softly spoken woman has made the decision to speak about her experience. ''I do not want this to happen to anyone else, and at some stage someone has to stand up and stop it - it's got to stop,'' she says.

She is determined that things should change and says if policy and procedures at CIT were followed she would still be able to work and contribute.

''I was intimidated and appalled by their behaviour. There have been several occasions where I've been made to feel like I'm a criminal where I'm the guilty party - mentally they crushed me. Before all this happened I was extremely confident I would take on challenges, I was totally independent.''

Marron says things have changed since Reubinson and Knight worked at CIT. He says procedure for handling of complaints have been strengthened and streamlined, but denies there was a systemic problem at any time. Earlier this year all ACT Government departments, including the CIT, implemented the ''RED framework'' for Respect, Equity and Diversity.

''It's a whole new response within the public sector for dealing with harassment and bullying,'' Marron says.

He stresses the Comcare cases, including Reubinson's and Knight's, were not about bullying and harassment. ''It's about a procedural issues which is not about bullying and harassment ... That whole process in the early part in 2010, did raise to me that we needed to have a look at what was happening, and that drove some of the intervention that we subsequently made. I did that because I'm a manager but I did that without making a judgment because I didn't have any evidence. I had a lot of people saying this and a lot of people saying that - but I didn't have any evidence [of bullying].''

And he says an independent 2010 staff survey showed ''that in the main things are pretty healthy''.

It is no longer acceptable to hurl abuse at workers in public or reduce staff to tears with destructive criticism, but Reubinson questions how workers can have faith in the new policies and procedures when they were clearly not followed in the past and there has been no acknowledgment that there was a problem.

''They could not follow the procedure they had in place previously so the new procedures are just token word of mouth,'' Reubinson says. ''Staff are still intimidated and the culture is still very very intimidating.''

Marron says proving bullying is difficult because it boils down to he said, she said. He says the CIT also has a duty of care to protect employees against allegations until they are proven. ''The thing is bullying and harassment is a very serious claim with serious consequences and that's why it needs to be a proven case.'' But other staff who remain employed by the CIT, and spoke on the condition of anonymity, say nothing has changed.

The special counsel for Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, Geoff Wilson, represented four CIT employees in their Comcare claims. He says the cases prove there were, and perhaps still are, systemic health and safety issues at the CIT as all the workers he represented suffered a psychological injury.

Wilson says, ''Maurice Blackburn represented four people who became psychologically unwell because of what happened at CIT and the way it was handled ...''

He is unable to go into detail as some of the cases are still ongoing. But in one case a staff member suffered a ''major depressive disorder ... with secondary panic and agoraphobic symptoms, that was significantly contributed to by her employment with Canberra Institute of Technology''.

In that case Comcare paid the CIT staffer compensation and legal costs.

''Comcare claims were lodged and all of these claims were successful,'' Wilson says. ''This is an indication that there are systemic health and safety issues in that workplace.''

Knight and Reubinson say the union is aware of the situation and has tried to help forwarding their complaints to Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

The acting secretary of the ACT Australian Education union, Glenn Fowler, confirmed a number of members had made allegations of harassment and bullying against the CIT to the union.

''The AEU is aware of issues facing members at the CIT, we have been supporting these member for some time now and we continue to work with them to ensure that they receive due process,'' Fowler said.

When asked if the union was satisfied that the CIT was a safe work environment for its members, Fowler said ''I don't want to answer that, sorry.''

The complaints have emerged as the ACT Government considers its response to the Bradley Report on the University of Canberra and CIT, which recommended merging the institutions.

Meanwhile, the WorkSafe investigation is expected to be completed by the end of the year. But Knight and Reubinson fear more lives will be destroyed and taxpayer dollars will continue to be wasted paying staff who are unable to work because of injuries which should and could have been avoided.


September 13, 2011

They don't stop until they destroy...

I was a full-time professor of sociology at Harrisburg Area Community College in Lancaster Pennsylvania. And I had kick butt evaluations at Penn st. University. I was mobbed, or multiply harassed dozens of times in the academia at Harrisburg area community college in Lancaster pa.

The people I worked around were sick and mean dude. I classify them now as having sociopathic tendencies. I taught all the advanced sociology courses at HACC, and I was the best sociology instructor there, hands down. In one of my first semesters I taught at HACC, I taught: race and culture, aging, soc problems, and soci 101. The second semester I was at HACC Lancster, I taught four different courses in one semester. can you believe that?

This happened just after I was out of graduate school. The leadership stunk at HACC. There were two other law suits going on at the time. They sat back and watched the harassment go on and on with me. It grew and grew like a snowball. Nobody did anything, but encouraged it to continue. The staff turned students, administration, and colleagues against me.

I finally filed a 60 point complaint of harassment with the PaHRC, and the EEOC. I kept thinking it was gang rape??? The case no are as followed PaHRC case no.200800802, and EEOC No. 17F200960329. In reality the complaint could have had hundreds of individual cases of harassment against me. When I filed the complaint I was fired, and it spread to organized cause stalking in the community of Lancaster Pa. They were spreading all kinds of rumors about me: unstable, aggressive, on drugs, a time-bomb... nothing could have ever been further from the truth. It did happen!

It was documented that one student would harass me 3 to 7 times a day. He did this for six weeks while the administration, and security sat back and watched. Nobody could understand what it was because it was so sick and so unbelievable. Even the doctors and counselors were confused because they haven't dealt with any cases where people had been victimized by mobbing or work place harassment. Only when a Forensic psychologist examined me did people understand what had happened to me. A person is so out of that they really don't even know what has really happened to them. You just get depressed, angry, hurt, and PTSD. Flash back of the torment, and helplessness of being cornered and attacked over and over again. And you just have to keep smiling. It's sick! Sometimes people don't even realize it is going on, but it is. And it has tragic psychological consequences on a person.

My complaint was filed. It is set stone, it did happen, and there is no denying it... my professor warned me this would happen in Lancaster, and it did. I am just glad I documented the entire thing. It happened just like a story prof. Joan Friedenberg wrote about, and posted on a site except it was much worse at Harrisburg Area Community College in Lancaster Pa. Forget the birds dude, they were like wolves and hornets stinging me over and over again... And they don't stop until they destroy, or run off...


September 10, 2011

e-petition: Criminal Penalties for Workplace Bullies

Responsible department: Ministry of Justice

In 2010, Unison reported that more than one third of workers had been bullied in the previous 6 months, double the number a decade ago. Complaints of bullying are now more prevalent in claims for unfair dismissal and discrimination. However, the current law does not provide adequate protection for the targets of bullying. This petition urges the Government to introduce individual criminal offences and corporate criminal liability for bullying in the workplace, similar to the provisions of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. Penalties should include imprisonment, unlimited fines and compensation orders. Bullying and harassment in the workplace was recently criminalised in Australia following the suicide of 19 year old Brodie Panlock, a waitress who was bullied at work. Tragic events should not be necessary to catalyse legislative change. This petition urges the Government to criminalise workplace bullying and harassment.

Sign at:

September 07, 2011

Just because bosses can read about their staff's private lives, it doesn't mean they should

This week, a new social media guide for the workplace has finally urged bosses to be transparent and reasonable when "snooping" on their staff via social networks. And it cannot have come soon enough.

ACAS, a body which helps organisations improve relationships with their workers, published the guide in response to the "growing problem" posed by the use of social networks by employees in the workplace.

Refreshingly, the tips are incredibly progressive, urging employers not to be "heavy-handed" by penalising staff for unprofessional comments on websites such as Facebook. Online behaviour should be judged within specific contexts, as offline behaviour is. If managers check on employees' use of social media, they must make it known what they scrutinise and why.

Nearly six out of 10 staff now access social networks at work, either via their computer or smartphone, every day - and while most companies do not have any social media policy to speak of - a factor Acas is trying to change by publishing this guide - the internet still seems to many people a private place for them and their friends.

John Taylor, ACAS's chief executive, has advised bosses to be cautious about reprimanding employees for comments they make on social networking websites and having knee-jerk reactions.

He said: "If an employer is too tough, they need to consider the potential impact of any negative publicity. Heavy-handed monitoring can cause bad feeling and be time consuming.

"A manager wouldn't follow an employee down the pub to check on what he or she said to friends about their day at work. Just because they can do something like this online, doesn't mean they should."

However, it does work both ways, and if an employee does publicly insult their employer online, without applying any privacy settings, then it is the equivalent of shouting out abuse in the town square - and they can be judged for it. A balance definitely needs to be struck between what information is made public and what is put behind strong privacy settings online. But, until now, most guides have laid the onus at the feet of the person publishing information.

The ACAS guide does state that employees should assume that everything they say on the internet could be made public and that they should think about whether they want their colleagues or boss to read it. However, what this guide does which stands out from the rest is address the fact that there are contexts online, just as there are in real life. Just because bosses can read about their staff's private lives, it doesn't mean they should or even that they can use that information against them.

Indeed, the ACAS guide clearly cautions employers about the risks of "Googling" potential employees and using any personal information gleaned from the internet, such as a person's religious beliefs, in the recruitment process.

In no uncertain terms, managers have been warned that they risk being sued for discrimination if they use websites such as Facebook to look into the private lives of prospective workers and then use this information when deciding whether to hire them or not.

In a week that has seen Jodie Jones, one of Britain's youngest councillors, criticised by her colleagues for drunken photos on Facebook, taken before she assumed her post, this part of the guide needs to be taken on board by employers everywhere.

We are entering an era where everyone will have grown up with a social network profile. They may well have published embarrassing photos, the type that used to lie forgotten in dusty albums in the attic and now exist in the full glare of the internet.

Yes, privacy settings should be applied, but sometimes things slip through the net, and so context must be applied when employers come across this type of personal online information. Further, managers should tell prospective employees and current staff whether they have looked at any material and why they have done so. All "snooping" activity needs to be relevant, transparent and appropriate.

The ACAS guide also encourages employers to promote the use of social networking websites in the workplace as a "key part of business and marketing".

The recommendation comes despite a study by myjobgroup, a jobs website, which calculated that social media activity in the workplace cost the UK economy £14bn in lost productivity last year.

Some companies have taken the rash step of banning access on work computers to social networking sites such as Facebook, but doing so is incredibly short-sighted as people can easily access social networks on their smartphones. Moreover, what's the difference between frittering away hours online and old fashioned time-wasters such as making a cup of tea or having a cigarette break? ACAS has advised bosses to draft their own social media policy in order to avoid staff confusion about what is and isn't allowed online.

But rather than these policies prescribing draconian measures which limit freedom of speech, they should preach common sense and apply principles used in the real world.

Every employer does need to make it clear to their staff what the company policy is on the use of social media and employees have a duty to ensure that any information they publish online is either not publicly available, or benign enough for any reasonable manager to stomach.

But, equally, bosses must not abuse information that may be available to them through the internet if it isn't relevant.

If there is more honesty and compassion all round, the modern workplace can evolve and flourish. Ultimately, businesses will reap the rewards in kind through happy workers and clever digital communication.

Emma Barnett is the Digital Media Editor at The Telegraph.

Twitter: @emmabarnett

September 4, 2011


Looking for YOUR Stories!

We are currently seeking individuals who are willing to be interviewed about their personal stories dealing with bullying in the workplace as a victim, bystander, upstander (intervener) or as a bully.

We are particularly interested in how the issue was dealt with and resolved, if was resolved at all.

All types of personal stories

We are looking for all types of stories from the perspective of a victim but also stories that inspire about individuals or organizations who have intervened.

Interviews are for a documentary film

The interviews are to be used as research for a film entitled Workplace on the Edge (working title) a documentary project focused on the current psychological health of the workplace. It profiles people directly impacted by it and corporate structures that unwittingly support patterns of abuse unacceptable in other environments.

If you are willing to share your story please fill out the form and a general outline of your personal story.

We will then contact you by email for further information or an interview.

Information is confidential

All information you provide is strictly confidential and will not be used on this website or documentary without your explicit permission.

If we would like to use the information, we will ask you explicitly for permission to use it in the documentary project which includes the website and documentary film.

More info at: