Workplace bullying rife in the sector, union claims

11th June 2010 at 01:00
One in ten have suffered physical or violent abuse, while 41 per cent report intimidation, UCU study finds

Two-fifths of further education employees have been bullied at work in the past sixth months, with one in ten reporting violent or physical abuse, according to a report by the University and College Union (UCU).

The incidence of bullying is far higher than in other industries, the union said. And, according to the report, managers and supervisors are responsible for much of the problem.

Overall, 41 per cent of FE respondents to the UCU survey carried out in November 2008 said they had been bullied in the preceding six months, compared with 34 per cent of those surveyed in the higher education sector.

The report, Who Listens? Bullying in Further and Higher Education, compared its findings with those in a survey of bullying across different occupations and industries in Britain in 2000 which found that 11 per cent of people had been bullied in the preceding six months.

But despite the reported incidence of bullying in FE, 69 per cent made no official complaint. Of those who did, 52 per cent who had been bullied by another employee said the response of their institution had been "bad or very bad".

The report found that 72 per cent of those who had been bullied blamed managers or supervisors, compared with 33 per cent who cited other colleagues, 7 per cent who said it was subordinates, and 6 per cent who blamed students.

The most likely forms of bullying included: being given tasks with unreasonable or impossible deadlines; being given an unmanageable workload; and being subject to excessive monitoring of work.

Other types of bullying included: being humiliated or ridiculed; being asked to do work below levels of competence; gossip and rumours; and having opinions ignored.

Ten per cent said they had experienced violence or physical abuse in the previous six months, with 2 per cent saying they experienced this sort of bullying on a monthly basis. One in ten reported unwanted sexual attention.

The Association of Colleges' (AoC) employment director, Evan Williams, voiced concern about the sample size of the survey, as only 324 FE employees responded, and said that it was two years out of date.

"The agreement on bullying and harassment was drawn up in 2008 and AoC jointly ran roadshows with the unions to raise awareness of these issues among employers and unions," he said.

Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: "The level of bullying in further and higher education is alarmingly high. With both sectors facing huge cuts and the very real possibility of heavier workloads, it is essential that robust measures are put in place to support staff."

Nadine Cartner, director of policy for the Association for College Management, representing some 4,000 FE managers, said the association was producing a handbook aimed at addressing the problem.

"Good colleges, by definition, seek to deal with and eliminate bullying through values of respect, openness and courtesy, together with a zero- tolerance approach when bullying occurs," she said.

72% - Proportion of those bullied who blamed managers or supervisors.

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