Editor's comment

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
The report into the allegations of bullying and the culture of fear at the Nottinghamshire Learning and Skills Council could not be more damning. An independent inquiry by Acas, the arbitration and conciliation service, has confirmed widespread bullying, a lack of trust and confidence, inappropriate behaviour, the casual use of obscenities and derogatory remarks. When specifically asked what one thing could be done to improve employee relations at the Notts LSC, 60 per cent of staff said that key personnel at a senior level should leave the organisation. "The organisation is sitting on a legal time bomb which could explode at any time," states the report.

The national LSC had to be dragged kicking and screaming into this inquiry.

From the first it downplayed the allegations, or just ignored them, and even tried to bully PCS, the Public and Commercial Services trades union, into staying away from the press. The union complained that one of its officials had been treated to aggressive, threatening and intimidating behaviour.

Over a sustained period this newspaper collected evidence from employees who had been treated in an appalling way - sworn at, belittled, denigrated - only the favoured few escaping. Staff were reduced to tears. Some women were openly referred to as "totty". Many left. Others were too afraid to put their names to complaints.

It was only when an anonymous, nine-page dossier, with very detailed accusations concerning "a draconian culture of fear and intimidation" was widely distributed to staff, that action was taken and the inquiry instigated.

Even then the inquiry was undertaken without any members of staff being suspended while it took place - a course of action which is the normal pattern in such events, if only to protect the innocent.

So what happens now? Notts, of course, is not the only local LSC to have problems with bullying. More than a quarter of staff at Staffordshire LSC said last year that they had experienced bullying or harassment in their jobs.

The national LSC now has the opportunity to show that it means it when it says there is no role for bullying in the workplace. It cannot continue to hide, and sweep the problem under the carpet.

This issue is undermining every other action it is taking to "make a difference to over six million lives". Bryan Sanderson, the chair of the LSC, told this paper last week: "You don't move on unless you change and people are got rid of."

Presumably that includes bullies.

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