Damaging inaccuracies

16th January 2004 at 00:00
The article written by Joe Eyre (TESS, January 2), which makes reference to an employment tribunal case involving Central College of Commerce, contains many inaccuracies and gross exaggerations about the case.

But it is inappropriate to comment in detail as the college board is giving consideration to its response to the tribunal judgment within the confines of UK employment law.

Mr Eyre wrongly attributes remarks to me which I categorically deny having made. I will not repeat their damaging content, but such erroneous half-truths and attribution are symptomatic of the general inaccuracies in the article.

During the hearing, the chairman of the tribunal and I discussed the handling of the case by the college. In order to help focus on the procedural aspects, we each used analogies. In doing so, neither of us was suggesting that the applicant's "offences" were equivalent to any analogies used, as ought to have been clear to Mr Eyre.

This case centres on bullying and harassment and there was a detailed discussion about this concept. I am able to confirm that I stated that harassment, whether it be sexual or bullying, was very much in the opinion of the receiver and not of others. For example, I indicated that in the case of sexual harassment a comment could be regarded as flirtatious if a receiver thought it not unwelcome, but the same comment could be regarded as harassment if the receiver thought it totally inappropriate.

Analogously in bullying, behaviour acceptable to one person (say in speaking tone or shouting) might be unacceptable and intimidatory to another.

I suggested that the key issue in any form of alleged harassment, sexual or bullying, was that the recipient made it known to the giver that his or her behaviour was unacceptable and thereafter the giver, if he or she did not desist, must be viewed as being guilty of harassment.

Given that the college was faced with a case of bullying and harassment, in the interests of the whole of our staff, we had to take legal advice and deal with it through the grievance and disciplinary processes.

To link the subsequent employment tribunal case to the way colleges undertake pay bargaining is inaccurate, opportunistic and misleading.

Inflammatory mis-statements and half-truths from Mr Eyre do nothing to assist the calm, rational running of Scotland's colleges.

Peter Duncan

Principal

Glasgow Central College of Commerce

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