BULLYING – WHAT IT IS AND WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT

Last year’s staff engagement survey revealed that an alarming number of staff (26%) had experienced or observed bullying or harassment.   While most staff said they knew what support mechanisms existed, a significant minority (23%) did not.

A working group was set up to develop actions in response to this, and we hope to see concrete actions arising from that. But following discussion at Branch Committee, we thought it was useful to provide more information to help members understand and address the problem.

What is bullying?

The University’s “Dignity at Work Policy”, developed in consultation with UNISON and the other recognised unions, can be found here: https://sheffieldhallam.sharepoint.com/sites/3005/polproc/dignity/SitePages/home.aspx.

It contains widely accepted standard definitions of harassment, victimisation and bullying.

“Harassment” is defined as “any form of unwanted conduct [that] occurs with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”

“Victimisation” is “where a person or group receives less favourable treatment than others because they have referred to or asserted their rights under anti-discriminatory legislation and/or university policies.”

And bullying is “persistent, unwelcome, offensive and intimidating behaviour or misuse of power, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable and undermines their self-confidence.”

The focus of this article is bullying.

Bullying does not have to be physical, it could take the form of spoken or written conduct, or non-verbal behaviours.   It could include ‘jokes’ or practical jokes, being shouted at, ridiculed, demeaned, undermined, or subjected to sarcasm or derogatory or inappropriate remarks. Threatening behaviour can be bullying whether physical or psychological, as can overbearing or intimidatory management or supervisory behaviours.  However, it is also possible for a manager to be bullied by someone they manage.  Bullying can also take the form of systematically withholding information, excluding people from meetings or communications without good reason, the “silent treatment”, or abuse of power.

If the bullying is related to a protected characteristic such as gender reassignment, disability, age, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy or maternity status, marriage or civil partnership status, race, religion or belief it may be covered by the provisions of the Equality Act, which provides specific protections against harassment.

Of course, some behaviours may be unacceptable without constituting bullying. The Dignity at Work policy includes further examples.

We often speak to members who feel unsure whether the behaviours they have experienced are “OK” or not, and it can be reassuring and empowering to know that what has been happening is bullying and that it is definitely not “OK”.   Speak to a Union representative if you have any concerns or want advice about your situation or are unsure what to do.

Bullying is unacceptable

It is important to be clear that all employees have the right to work in a safe environment, and the University is responsible for (and the Policy makes it clear that they are formally committed to this) creating a workplace that is free of harassment, victimisation, discrimination and bullying, and where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

The Dignity at Work policy states that “The University has a zero tolerance approach across all protected characteristics as outlined above to Bullying, harassment and victimisation which are all disciplinary offences and will be dealt with under the University’s disciplinary policy. Bullying  and  Harassment can constitute gross misconduct and can lead to dismissal without  notice.”

The Policy states that allegations of bullying will be investigated.

What can I do about bullying?

There are several steps that any individual who believes they are being bullied should take.

  • Document what is happening. Keep a written or electronic record or diary of the behaviour whenever it happens, whether it’s a big issue or an apparently minor one. Make a note of past incidents too.
  • If you feel able to, speak (or write) to the person you believe is bullying you, explain why you think their behaviour is unacceptable and make it clear you would like it to stop.   Givce specific examples and explain how they make you feel. Sometimes this is all it takes for the behaviour to stop. Speak to a Union rep for advice on how to do this.
  • If challenging the behaviour has not stopped it, or you do not feel able to speak to the person yourself, raise the matter with your line manager (or your line manager’s line manager, if appropriate).   Speak to a Union rep for advice if you’re not sure how to do this. We can raise the issue on your behalf, with your permission, or attend meetings with you.
  • You can also raise the issue by contacting HR.
  • Make use of the employee assistance programme: https://sheffieldhallam.sharepoint.com/sites/3005/polproc/eap/SitePages/Home.aspx?web=1
  • If the issue has not been resolved informally, or by management intervention, or if the behaviour is serious enough to warrant immediate formal action, then the University’s grievance procedure can be used.   Get advice from a Union rep on how to write and submit a grievance – we can also support and accompany you through the process.

The University’s policy is that bullying allegations are taken seriously and will be investigated.   If the investigation upholds the complaint, then disciplinary action can be taken.

It is recognised that it is not easy to raise complaints about bullying, so do seek support from UNISON.

Can I complain anonymously?

Yes. The University will investigate anonymous complaints as thoroughly as possible given the information available. The accused person would be informed that a complaint has been received and given an opportunity to respond.   However, be aware that it may not be possible to investigate an anonymous complaint.

Isn’t it just one person’s word against another?  

Not at all.

The purpose of an investigation is to come to a conclusion on the balance of probabilities rather than trying to find indisputable proof, which of course may not exist.   Notes taken at the time an incident occurred are important evidence, as is evidence that you have discussed the matter with HR, a line manager, or a Union representative or colleague.  Emails, text messages and social media posts may exist, as may meeting notes (or the lack of them).  There may have been witnesses to some of the behaviour complained of, if not all of it   And a person accused of bullying will not necessarily point-blank deny the behaviour, but may seek to justify or explain it away.

If an investigation is unable to uphold a grievance, due to contradictory or lack of evidence, action to deal with conflict between individuals may still be appropriate.

Bullying is unacceptable, but the staff survey suggests it is common but under-reported.  UNISON representatives are keen to support members in fighting bullying wherever it occurs and whoever is doing it.   Please get in touch if this is happening to you.

For more information see: https://www.unison.org.uk/get-help/knowledge/discrimination/bullying-and-harassment/

 

UNISON INTERNATIONAL: GAMBIA BIJILO PROJECT

Yorkshire and Humberside Region have been supporting a project in Gambia for several years and have received donations from a number of Branches.

This year their new goal is to raise £20,000 to build more classrooms for the Bijilo School.

Region is appealing to Branches to help support the project which our Branch will discuss at the February Branch Committee meeting.

 

HAVE YOU POSTED YOUR BALLOT PAPER YET?

If you haven’t used your vote, don’t worry there is still time! The ballot closes on the 30th October.

Following the consultative ballot on the pay offer UNISON is now formally balloting members on strike action in pursuit of the pay claim. Members of Unite and UCU are also being balloted. In line with the law the ballot must be conducted by post and 50% of eligible UNISON members must participate for a majority vote for action to be valid. Therefore every vote counts!

The employers’ final offer was 1.8% for most staff, however the unions asked for 3% UNISON says that this is not good enough and that’s why we are recommending a vote for strike action.

Our employer has now opted to impose the pay award of 1.8% for most staff, this does not mean that we have to accept the situation as it stands. If you believe that this is not good enough then use your vote to send that message.

You can use the UNISON pay calculator to see how much the value of your pay has declined since 2009. Go to: https://tinyurl.com/shupaycalc (scroll to the bottom of the page to find the calculator).

 

 

Posted in Pay

DEFEND EU MIGRANTS

Stand Up To Racism has launched a statement for a major campaign to defend EU migrants rights in the wake of a racist attack by Boris Johnson’s cabinet, signed by Diane Abbott, Alf Dubs, several trade union leaders, MPs, MEPs, local politicians, faith group leaders and anti racist activists and published in the Guardian.

Locally we want to gather as many signatures and to put this statement in the local press. We are asking our supporters to help by:     

Signing the statement online HERE.

Download the statement as a petition HERE to use in workplaces, colleges and communities.

YOUTH CLIMATE STRIKE ACTION 20 09 19

‘This is not a single-generation job. It’s humanity’s job….Let’s all join together, with your neighbours, co-workers, friends, family and go out on to the streets to make your voices heard and make this a turning point in our history’ – Greta Thunberg and 46 youth activists from the International movement.

On 20th September young people across the globe not only continued their monthly strike action (inspired by the environmental activist Greta Thunberg), but called on all workers, trade unionists, community groups  and adults to join them as part of a massive global day of action. Millions of people from Sydney to Manila, Dhaka to London and New York marched for urgent action by world leaders on climate breakdown. This just 3 days before the UN emergency climate summit.

Five thousand joined the students here in Sheffield, with the branch  joining the march through Sheffield along Arundel Gate to the City Hall. There were speakers  from Sheffield Trades Council, Sheffield Climate Alliance, Sheffield Stand Up to racism, but it was the voices of the young and future workers that dominated the rally and inspired many to join them in their stand against the inertia of those in power, demanding a climate emergency an  calling for action to be taken now.

Sheffield Hallam University Branch sent the following message of support to those young people who took to the streets:

“Sheffield Hallam University UNISON Branch sends solidarity to all the young people around the world striking today. Above all else you have shown great strength in creating a wave of urgency and resistance that has shown the way in the struggle against this climate crisis. It is time for all trade unionists, workers and everyone on this planet to join you in calling ‘time out’ to all those in power who continue to ignore you. Together, we can build a better world.”

We will be sending out more information as to future activities from our branch around the climate emergency. If you are interested in getting involved please contact Lucinda Wakefield at l.m.wakefield@shu.ac.uk

 

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE AGAINST RACISM, FASCISM, ISLAMOPHOBIA & ANTISEMITISM

Saturday 19th October

9.30 till 16.30

Friends House,

173-177 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ

 Johnson, Trump & The International Far-right: How do we unite to defeat them?

Speakers include: Gary Younge, Journalist • Miguel Roldan, Spanish firefighter • Louise Raw, author • Richard Burgon MP • Emma Dent Coad MP • Alex Mayer MEP • Claude Moraes MEP • Julie Ward MEP • Jean Lambert, Green Party • Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary • Kevin Courtney Joint General Secretary NEU • Tony Kearns Deputy General Secretary (postal) CWU • Jane Loftus, CWU Vice President • Nita Sanghera UCU Vice President • Anas Altikriti, Muslim Association of Britain • Ged Grebby, Show Racism the Red Card Chief Executive • Mohammed Kozbar, Finsbury Park Mosque Chairman • Unmesh Desai, GLA Member, Labour, City and East London • Damien Gayle, Journalist • Ben Chacko, Morning Star editor • Rakhia Ismail, Islington Councillor • Gerry Gable, Editor/Publisher, Searchlight • Sabby Dhalu and Weyman Bennett, Stand Up To Racism

Sessions include:

  • Challenging the rise of racism, Islamophobia and antisemitism
  • Windrush, Grenfell, deaths in custody – The fight for justice
  • Reporting racism – The media and the growth of racist ideas
  • Solidarity forever – Refugees and migrants welcome here
  • A coordinated international movement against Trumpism & the far-right
  • Love Music Hate Racism – culture & the anti-racist movement
  • Fighting Islamophobia in the age of Boris Johnson

SHU UNISON Branch has passed a motion supporting the conference and have agreed to pay for two delegates from the branch to attend (paying for tickets and transport down – there is a Sheffield coach going down)

 If you would like to attend please email both Lucinda Wakefield ( l.m.wakefield@shu.ac.uk) and Ana Yousaf  (f.yousaf@shu.ac.uk) as soon as possible so that we can book tickets and coach seats in good time.

 

 

UNISON PAY CONSULTATION

You should have received an email from Jon Richards, UNISON’s Head of Education in the last week or so, urging that you use your vote in the ongoing pay consultation.   You may also have received a reminder.

The email includes a link to allow you to vote.  In the past we have conducted these consultative ballots locally, but they are now being run from National HQ.

If you are an eligible member but have lost your voting email or didn’t receive one, you can use this voting link instead (membership number required):

Vote now

Please do use your vote.    You can vote until 1st July.

The pay offer affects you, and your vote helps determine UNISON’s response.   UNISON is urging members to REJECT the offer, and will decide whether to proceed to a full ballot for industrial action based on the results of this consultative ballot.

UNISON’s pay claim, submitted jointly with the other Higher Education unions, was for a rise of inflation (using the RPI measure), plus 3% (or a minimum of  £3,349).     The claim also asked for a £10 an hour minimum rate of pay, for all Universities to become accredited Living Wage employers, a 35 hour working week, action to close gender and ethnicity pay gaps, and action on excessive workloads and stress.

The employers offered a rise of 1.8%, with an offer of between 1.82% and 3.65% for the lowest paid.

Check what it would mean for you here:  final pay offer.

Use UNISON’s pay calculator below to see how much pay you’ve lost over the last ten years:https://www.unison.org.uk/at-work/education-services/about/higher-education/pay-now-higher-education.