March 29, 2012

RMIT academics really not happy about having to be happy at work

Universities that compel academics to show a positive attitude risk an ''immediate backlash'', an industrial relations expert says.

RMIT University staff will fight against a new behavioural code that demands they promote positivity and show passion at work.

University of Adelaide law professor Andrew Stewart said it was reasonable for managers in other fields, such as sales, to expect positive behaviour from employees.

But he said the RMIT plan could threaten critical thinking, although he understood managers' frustrations with academics who complain endlessly about their work.

The RMIT staff will campaign against the code, despite a ruling by the workplace tribunal that the university was allowed to introduce it.

Fair Work Australia ruled last week that RMIT had not breached its workplace agreement with staff by introducing the new behavioural requirements. The National Tertiary Education Union has appealed against the decision, but a hearing date is yet to be set.

The ''behavioural capability framework'' requires thousands of RMIT staff members meet a list of expectations, depending on their level of employment.

It says some academic and professional staff must ''promote the positive rather than the negative'' and display passion for the job.

Staff would be required to achieve ''external benchmarks of performance excellence''.

The union's senior industrial officer, Linda Gale, said the framework contained vague and unreasonable expectations. ''Some of it is nonsensical. Some of it is impossible,'' Ms Gale said.

The union has advised staff who sign the framework to write an accompanying note saying they were forced to sign under duress.

Ms Gale said the code threatened the ability of academic and professional staff to carry out their work. ''We're talking about a university community. People are supposed to be sceptical and questioning. That's their job.''

RMIT chief operating officer Steve Somogyi said the university introduced the framework in response to the results of a staff survey conducted in 2010.

He said the survey had revealed a need to improve career development for staff.

Mr Somogyi denied the framework would limit academics' work. He said academics were free to pursue their field of study and promote their findings.

Staff members have until April 13 to sign off on the framework. They are due to begin negotiating a new collective agreement with the university in July.

Senior lecturer Michael Segon said the document contained some ''wonderful aspirational statements'', but was not specific enough and some of it was poorly written. ''It could be interpreted differently across the university,'' he said.

RMIT union branch president Melissa Slee said up to 700 staff members had signed a petition opposing the framework.


March 24, 2012

Manchester Metropolitan University’s skeletons of institutional racism re-surface

On September 22nd, 2011 we reported on Dr D’Silva’s challenge against his unfair dismissal by MMU and his application for judicial review (see'silva ).

On 27th March, 2012 the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) will consider the following:

a. MMU’s attempt to derail Dr D’Silva’s judicial review by forcing the Employment Tribunal (ET) hearing first. If successful it would render the review meaningless.

b. An appeal against the ET decision made by Judge Sneath. Dr D’ Silva’s main ground of appeal is that Judge Sneath made an adverse finding against Dr D’Silva, that was based on evidence not before the court. This finding was used by MMU in his unfair dismissal hearing.

c. A review of the EAT decision which set aside overthrowing the landmark decision in his 2005 case of Institutional racial discrimination. This review is to be based on deception by MMU that they were not aware of the issues adjudicated by the Judge prior to her decision.

The Council of Ethnic Minority (
) and the Council for Academic Freedom and ( reported the scathing findings of the Manchester Employment Tribunal and its condemnation of the Institutional Racist Culture at MMU under the headship of the then Vice Chancellor, Dame Sandra Burslem.

In a landmark decision in cases no 2409906/03 – 2404779/04 the Manchester ET made findings of racial discrimination against the Vice-Chancellor Dame Sandra Burslem, Professor Barry Plumb Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Maureen O’Neal Pro- Vice Chancellor, Professor Leach Head of Chemistry & Materials, Mr Bill Hallam Human Resources Director, Mr. Peter Gibb Employee Relations Manager and Dr. Julia Dickinson Principal Lecturer in Chemistry. This decision was made in the absence of Dr D’Silva or his witnesses giving evidence to shift the burden of proof. Dr D’Silva at this time was on extended psychiatric leave due to harassment by the University’s management prior to and after his case.

The University’s Counsel, Mr Paul Gilroy.QC, a part time Chairman of the Birmingham Tribunal, despite being presented with no legal opposition and an open goal, failed to make the University’s case against racial discrimination.

Instead of accepting the ET’s black and white finding of racial discrimination, the University’s new Vice Chancellor, Professor John Brooks used the University funds (estimated at £1 million by his UCU representative) to prevent justice from being done by overturning the ET findings in favour of Dr D’Silva. In 2007 Mr Gilroy, MMU’s Counsel appealed the ET decision on the pretext that the case adjudicated by the ET was a different one from that pleaded by the Claimant in his grounds (ET1). Dr D’Silva’s solicitor and Counsel, defending the appeal before the EAT, were disadvantaged, since only Mr Gilroy knew the issues adjudicated by the judge, which they only disclosed recently via case management direction (CMD) documents which they deliberately omitted from the EAT Bundle prepared by them.

As an officer of the court, Mr Gilroy had a duty to ensure justice was done and seen to be done, which is not what he practiced – as can be seen from the case of Lingarten vs BMA in which complaints were raised against him in regard to the conduct of the Tribunal, which was biased in his favour. At the EAT appeal the case was heard by H.H. Judge Clarke, who had already adjudicated other MMU case, such as Rudzki vs MMU, EAT/640/99 with Mr Gilroy as Counsel. He dismissed his an appeal on the grounds that he was not entitled to a second opportunity to make his claim, but Judge Clarke, in Dr D”Silva’s case, tied his Counsel’s hand denying him a disclosure order regarding the issues adjudicated by the ET to prevent Counsel challenging MMU’s assertions. He thus gave MMU a second opportunity to make their case. Judge Clarke then overturned five of the findings that had been in favour of Dr D’Silva and, having dismantled his atomic bomb, of discrimination (removed the critical mass), remitted the sixth issue back to the ET to Judge O’Hara for a re-hearing.

However the judge O’Hara’s impartiality was compromized having being promoted to a full time member of the Manchester tribunal, having previously been used on the basis she was a part-time judge of the Leeds Tribunal, on the basis of bias present in the Manchester Tribunal. The hearing breached the EAT’s orders for the re-hearing and the issues adjudicated were different from those identified by Judge Garnon’s CMD document used in the original hearing used to make the findings of discrimination and the outcome obtained was the dismissal of all findings.

On the 4th May 2010 during disclosure of documents on Dr D’Silva’s new case, the respondents (MMU) provided Judge Garnon’s CMD document from the claimant’s 2005 case which had been withheld from three Counsels acting for Dr D’Silva in his different appeals which elaborated the issues identified by Judge Garnon and used by the Judge in making her findings against the University in its 1995 case. The respondent’s counsel, Mr Gilroy also revealed during an EAT appeal before Judge Richardson that he had spent five days discussing the issues of the case with the judge, having claimed before the EAT that he did not know the issues on which the judge had adjudicated.

The Courts have a duty to make sure justice is done and seen to be done and on the 27th March 2012 they will have to decide whether to allow Dr D’Silva’s review of the EAT decision based on the new evidence of gross deception, or accept the respondents’ defense that the claim is out of time.

Dr D’Silva relies on the Sally Clarke’s case in regard to gross injustice and misconduct. In her case, medical evidence was denied to the court, by the prosecution to progress their case. Time was not an issue then and should not be here.

Those interested in this case should attend the EAT at its new venue at 2-6 Salisbury Square London, EC4Y 8JX - 27th March, 2012

March 23, 2012

University of Ulster

The University of Ulster is damaging service to both students and the community through the widespread threat of compulsory redundancies.

The objective of this bullying and intimidation appears to be to:

• Coerce staff into accepting reductions in pay grade
• Pressure staff into accepting poor voluntary redundancy packages or early retirement
• Target individual staff without any clearly defined criteria for doing so

Sign the petition at:

March 14, 2012

Westhues's checklist of mobbing indicators

Westhues devised the following list of mobbing indicators, with indicator number 12 probably being the most important:
  1. By standard criteria of job performance, the target is at least average, probably above average.

  2. Rumours and gossip circulate about the target’s misdeeds: “Did you hear what she did last week?”

  3. The target is not invited to meetings or voted onto committees, is excluded or excludes self.

  4. Collective focus on a critical incident that “shows what kind of man he really is”.

  5. Shared conviction that the target needs some kind of formal punishment, “to be taught a lesson”.

  6. Unusual timing of the decision to punish, e. g., apart from the annual performance review.

  7. Emotion-laden, defamatory rhetoric about the target in oral and written communications.

  8. Formal expressions of collective negative sentiment toward the target, e. g. a vote of censure, signatures on a petition, meeting to discuss what to do about the target.

  9. High value on secrecy, confidentiality, and collegial solidarity among the mobbers.

  10. Loss of diversity of argument, so that it becomes dangerous to “speak up for” or defend the target.

  11. The adding up of the target’s real or imagined venial sins to make a mortal sin that cries for action.

  12. The target is seen as personally abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities; stigmatizing, exclusionary labels are applied.

  13. Disregard of established procedures, as mobbers take matters into their own hands.

  14. Resistance to independent, outside review of sanctions imposed on the target.

  15. Outraged response to any appeals for outside help the target may make.

  16. Mobbers’ fear of violence from target, target’s fear of violence from mobbers, or both.


March 13, 2012


Professor Kenneth Westhues has updated his website 'Workplace Mobbing in Academe':

March 05, 2012

Workplace bullying on the rise at UNSW

WORKPLACE bullying is rife and on the rise at the University of NSW, according to a staff survey.

The vast majority of 552 people responded to the National Tertiary Education Union survey had experienced or witnessed bullying behaviours, the union found. Those included 68 per cent who said they had been bullied, and 83 per cent who had witnessed such behaviour.

Three quarters reported ‘‘someone being treated differently from other colleagues’’, two thirds said they knew of ‘‘arbitrary decision making with negative impacts on someone’’ and also of ‘‘misuse of power against a subordinate’’, while just under half listed ‘‘repeated shouting, swearing or threatening behaviour towards a staff member in public or private’’.

Of most concern, said Sarah Gregson, branch president of the NTEU, was that 70 per cent of respondents said the behaviour had not stopped, which she attributed to a culture of fear.

‘You would hope that universities are full of people who have the freedom to speak out and what we mainly found through this process is people are afraid to speak out. They know that there are an enormous number of ways that they be surreptitiously got at and so they keep their head down and try to do the best they can. It worries me very much that 70 per cent of people say that bullying is still ongoing.’’

One respondent wrote, ‘‘Fear and anxiety drive the lack of reporting and often because of the way bullying behaviour occurs, there isn’t tangible evidence of the behaviour, so it’s risky for the victim.’’

‘A university spokeswoman said there had not been a rise in reported cases.

‘‘Less than 10 complaints of bullying are reported through our complaint handling processes in any given year.

There has been no increase in the number of complaints received over recent years.’’

The report said the union had handled 18 cases of bullying and several of misconduct and performance management containing elements of bullying over the last two years, including one where the university acknowledged the manager was at fault but the victim left. The union acted on that person’s behalf to negotiate a separation agreement, Dr Gregson said.

Two thirds of the complainants were women but there was no question in the survey asking whether the perpetrator was male or female.

Dr Gregson said responses suggested that some of the bullies were women, and she said previous studies had shown that women were as likely as men to be bullies if they were in a position of power.

The NTEU presented the report to the university management this week. It includes recommendations such as the appointment of an independent bullying officer and the inclusion of clauses in enterprise agreements that ‘‘ensure management accountability, through external regulation and enforceable standards’’

There would be no decision about the recommendations until management had time to fully absorb the report, but the university remained committed to providing an equitable workplace, the spokeswoman said.

‘‘Mutual respect and collegiality is identified as a guiding principle for UNSW and any incidences of bullying that are reported are taken very seriously and addressed.’’


March 02, 2012

Bully buster? VQR spurs UVA launch of 'respectful workplace'

A year-and-a-half after the suicide of the Virginia Quarterly Review's managing editor Kevin Morrissey launched a national debate about whether it was the scene of workplace bullying, UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan has launched the Respect@UVA program, a comprehensive workplace initiative designed to promote "kindness, dignity and respect."

But one workplace bullying expert thinks the reforms announced February 15 don't go far enough. Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute, contends that bullying should be put in the context of real violence to avoid letting programs like this get "shackled by all its shortcomings."

In addition to educational resources, the UVA program includes a new complaint reporting system designed to allow employees to air grievances without fear of retaliation from their superiors, as well as a commitment to follow up within two business days.

"As president, I will hold myself accountable to the Commitment to a Caring Community," Sullivan says in statement, "and I will expect all leaders at all levels of the University to do the same. We will not tolerate retaliation against an employee who reports an incident."

As the Hook recently revealed, Morrissey expressed frustration about an alleged lack of oversight over his boss, VQR editor Ted Genoways, and reached out several times to UVA officials, including those in the President's office.

"In every instance," Morrissey wrote in one of his leaked emails, "either through advice given or interaction, the onus was placed on me to deal with the issue."

"It's very upsetting for me to have to think about how valiantly and doggedly Kevin struggled to be heard," says Morrissey's sister, Maria, "only to have everyone he spoke to ultimately say there was nothing they could do without the bully's cooperation."

Shortly after taking office in 2010, Sullivan established a Respectful Workplace Task Force, a group of 26 faculty and staff volunteers that, along with Human Resources vice president Susan Carkeek, created the new initiative.

"The task force members believe that to become best in class as a respectful workplace, we will need commitment from everyone working at all levels of the University," said Sullivan.

The program comes down particularly hard on managers, calling on them to serve as "role models of respectful behavior," bans retaliating in anger to complaints, and it even includes a questionnaire for managers to self-examine their management style entitled, "Could you be the bully?"

While Namie thinks the program is a step in the right direction, alleged shortcomings include the softer term "disrespect" to describe what is happening in an abusive workplace.

"Calling the problem what it is– psychological violence, abusive conduct, or bullying– fosters real outrage and systemic solutions," asserts Namie, claiming that while incivility and disrespect can cause stress and health problems, moderate to severe bullying has been linked to abusive conduct, deep despair, and even suicide.

"If they don't get it right the first time,"says Namie, "the program will not be re-visited and revised unless there's an on-campus murder or suicide, with notes left clearly indicating that abusive mistreatment was the root cause."

Maria Morrissey says she was struck by the fact that the program's examples of retaliation don't include abrasive emails or unjustified accusations of bad behavior against whistle-blowers, both of which were alleged aspects of the VQR situation.

"How will UVA deal with the supervisor who prefers to deal in less obvious forms of bullying and retaliation?" asks Morrissey.

She also wonders how the university– which now promises to ferret out bullying "regardless of position or status"– will deal with potentially untouchable supervisors such as big money fundraisers, literary and academic stars, or– in the case of VQR– a boss who formerly answered only to a busy university president.

"'Regardless of position or status' sounds lovely on paper," says Morrissey," but how will that really work in a hierarchy like a university?"