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One in four claims to have been bullied at Staffordshire skills council

More than a quarter of staff at Staffordshire Learning and Skills Council say they have personally experienced bullying or harassment during the past year.

The figure of 28 per cent - compared with the national average of 14 per cent - comes from a national employee survey conducted for the Learning and Skills Council by International Survey Research.

A special meeting of the local council was convened at the end of June, where executive director Adele MacGowan was challenged to explain the figures.

Amir Kabal, director of East Staffordshire Racial Equality Council, and a LSC member, said the figures were serious. "We want to get to the bottom of this but it is difficult. What is it that makes people feel harassed and vulnerable?"

He said there had been pressures on staff and managers to deliver. A re-shaping exercise had also upset people. "We have to turn this into something positive and we will be consulting staff on these issues."

The survey also found that only 18 per cent of Staffordshire staff felt it was safe to speak their mind, rising to 30 per cent nationally.

Only half of staff feel they are treated with respect in the LSC, with the Staffordshire figure being 44 per cent.

Nationally, only 39 per cent of staff believe that the management style encourages them to perform at their best, compared to 29 per cent of Staffordshire employees.

Ms MacGowan, executive director, said: "The LSC believes in listening to its employees and being open with them. Our employees respect this and have welcomed the opportunity to contribute to improving working arrangements.

"At a recent managers' awayday, agreement was reached on principles of respecting and valuing staff." She said a number of staff "question times" had been introduced, there would be regular briefings from the senior management team, and an all-staff awayday in September.

LSC staff throughout the country have been given presentations by their managers on the local results of the survey. In many they are poor, but executive directors are saying they are a "groundbase" on which to build.

* Last month FE Focus reported that the national LSC had been accused of trying to bully a union official who had spoken out about bullying at Nottinghamshire LSC.

The LSC and the trade union PCS will meet on Monday to discuss the allegations of bullying at Nottingham.

Any complaints received will be investigated using agreed procedures.

A secret report by consultants said there was a "culture of fear" at the Notts branch. But the LSC said it was wrong to say an inordinate number of people had been absent due to stress. Figures were lower than the national average, it claimed.

The LSC was confident that any voluntary redundancy requirements were within prescribed limits. "They are service-related and have been agreed with the union," said a spokesman.

He said they were not aware of the suggestion of excessive pay rises to certain individuals, and any disciplinary action against staff was appropriate, he said.

"The LSC has a formal disciplinary process that has been agreed with the union. If staff are in any way unhappy that the process has not been correctly applied they can either appeal or raise a grievance," he said.

Peter Pendle, 26

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