April 26, 2015

Bullying and Sexual Predators @ Academy Union

Last time we exposed long-standing bullying at Academy Union (AU). This time we focus on a specific case of what can happen when an innocent elected Union member falls foul of certain Academy Union staff “enforcers” of the union management. So that our readers can understood how this injustice to a union member occurred, we have to emphasize that the real controllers of the Academy Union are the top management team who make all day-to-day decisions. Union Managers have a privileged salary, numerous job perks and subsidised life-style such as freedom to work from home. Academy Union staff enjoy working conditions which are much better than any equivalent university or college grade in the sector they represent.

Indeed the salaries and conditions of even lower-grade Academy Union officials are only matched by the professoriate salaries of union members in some of the older universities. In an academic sector which is increasingly casualized and a majority of academic staff in the UK are not in permanent jobs, Academy Union employees have some of the best working conditions of employees anywhere in the country. That may explain why only one of the top managers accepted the union’s generous voluntary severance scheme, and he (having allegedly received over £300k) renegotiated a new job leading the Academy Union Dictatorship Section.

When Academy Union faced financial crisis due to hitches in selling  two valuable property assets while buying and refitting a third, members took the hit in poor service. The union then spent over a £1 million to reduce its staff compliment by just ten people! Some of the pay-offs were spectacular- do the maths! Some of those “paid off” even immediately came back!

images5Z4QQQ75The highest beneficiares in the Academy Union’s generous staff trough are its top managers. Pay and perks @ Academy Union are so good for its staff that only the top 3% of its union members earn as much as the management team of their union. In short, only a tiny fraction of professors at elite universities earn as much as the General Secretary and union managers who are lavishly paid to represent them. That is even before we count the Academy Union’s Presidential Apartments, travel perks and even a bicycle purchase subsidy, pension scheme and union employee benefits. It certainly makes up for having to drink all that acidic “FairTrade” coffee which the union provides free for its staff.
The case we want to expose at Academy Union in this posting concerns an innocent union volunteer and an alleged sex predator among its officials. It also reveals the union’s failure to take action despite years of complaints about this union official, the inaction of his line manager, a cover-up disguised as a perfunctionary union investigation and the collusion of a union senior manager. The union volunteer was allegedly sexually assaulted by the Academy Union official at a union function witnessed by a dozen other union members including members of the union’s National Executive Committee.

The volunteer was allegedly assaulted a second time, again during union work, the union official’s drunken behaviour having attracted the concern of premises security. Following the volunteer’s complaint his manager said she would talk to him and another senior union manager became involved as the official warned the volunteer that he would use this senior manager to silence him. Having served as a volunteer for close to a decade this elected member suddenly got a complaint from the senior manager about his expenses claims concerning such matters as his contact, his precise home address and his claim for carer’s allowance while he was on union business.

imagesGJN9853BThe senior manager claimed he did not have proof of the member’s address. The member produced his Council tax registration and a file of utility address confirmations for his home covering several decades. The manager claimed he wanted to know more about the caring relationship- something which is not even covered in union regulations. Nevertheless the volunteer happily provided full NHS certification for the caring arrangement. The manager said he did not believe the authorising doctor was curently practising and disproved the doctor’s reports as not being written with clincial rigor. The manager had actually mistaken the medical consultant for a different practice with a similar name. The British Medical Association then criticized the Academy Union for potentially slanderous allegations against one of its GPs. The manager claimed he previously knew nothing about the volunteer so could not be held to have acted disproportionately against him.

The manager had in fact been named (for the first time at least a full three years previously) in the volunteer’s original sexual assault complaint as the Academy Union official had threatened him if he went ahead with the complaint he would use the senior manager to “bury him”. In addition, the senior manager had been involved in the complaint-review in which another manager had said she would “speak to” the official about his “inappropriate behaviour at a union function”. Moreover the same senior manager had negatively evaluated a case submitted by the volunteer for assistance from the union, some years earlier.

The extent of the union’s investigation of the sexual assault investigation was a two minute phone call to the volunteer made by another union senior manager asking how he would propose to evidence it. The outcome was that the union investigator, a colleague of the complaining senior manager, decided there was no provable case. The volunteer who was on a casual contract found his college’s human resources staff and his branch union officers were encouraged by the complaining senior manager to regard the volunteer as un-employed and stripped him from union membership.

To seal things the complaining senior manager set up a sting which undercut the volunteer when he relied on his branch to continue as a Committee representative. The volunteer had a long-standing branch approval to do committee work but within two minutes of his lodging his application for Committee nomination, the senior manager had undermined his support.

In short, this was a case of an Academy Union senior manager arguing with the human resources director of a college that a member could not have branch membership on the basis of his temporary but renewable contract offer. All this despite the union official policy to defend casual staff. The complaining manager at Academy Union then upped the anty against the volunteer by arguing he was foul of union rules requiring a contract to sit on union committees and thereby also calling into question the eligibility criterion for some of the volunteer’s past expenses. The volunteer made it clear he was blameless, had incurred all expenses in good faith and asked for an independent investigation. Academy Union refused, they ignored fresh evidence on the alleged sexual assault and concluded the volunteer had breached union rules with a view to expelling him.

untitled (179)The entirety of this process was overseen by the senior manager who was named in the volunteer’s complaint, but the union claimed that he could still morally do that while remaining at arms length of his own investigation. The shrewd result of this sanction is that it immediately deprived the member of branch affiliation and scuttled his request for an investigation of the sexual and collusion allegation. The volunteer was still owed more expenses by the union (if they accepted his eligibility) than he had ever claimed. The Union had suspended payment to him of meal, transport, carer’s and other expenses running into many thousands of pounds- a large sum compared with the expenses disputed by the Union.

imagesXBQREXZWThe volunteer would like to use this forum to appeal for Academy Union to appoint a genuinely independent investigator into both the alleged sexual assault and membership issues. Such an investigation may compel Academy Union to produce previous complaints of sexual assault against Academy Union officials and allegations of alleged collusion between that official and the same named senior manager in regard to past compaints by the union’s volunteers. Such a process would also have to consider if Academy Union had permitted a culture of bullying at its London headquarters and that the Academy Union senior manager had also been subject to previous complaints of “union bullying”. The Academy Union has been criticized for allowing poor management practices e.g. an incestuous line management system complicated by marital and extra-marital relationships among its top employees, and a high level of complaints of staff bullying against the senior manager the volunteer has complained of.

The Academy Union employee named in the complaint as an alleged sexual predator has a lengthy history of volunteer complaints. It is disturbing that the Academy Union which prides itself on equality services to members has such lack over-sight of alleged sexual bullying or that his line supervisor would regard it appropriate only to “have a word” with the staff member about his behaviour. This Academy Union senior staffer, again the subject of collusion allegations, has been referred to in previous disciplinary reports as the union’s “enforcer”, and as someone whose forcefulness had allowed his judgement to go unquestioned. We cannot necessarily look to our professional representation as a defense against bullying, and that Academy Union is not the membership-led organisation set out in its principles.

Many members now feel that Academy Union Congress, overtly its supreme body, is controlled by senior managers. However union membership is so weak and the Union Executive so “hands off” that genuine union democracy has long been sacrificed by its well paid Union employees. This web-site has exposed allegations of bullying across the college system, and where it exists, we are equally determined to stamp out bulling at Academy Union so that members can get the genuinely democratic representation their subscriptions deserve.

images1U4Z7VU4ADVISORY….This is a work of humorous parody and any similarities with persons or places real or imagined is purely a matter of coincidence. If you’ve been bullied at your union or in any F/HE institution don’t hesitate in complete confidence to E-MAIL: bullied.academics@yahoo.co.uk Victims may complain without penalty under their college procedures or consider making a complaint to their local police. Where the police are contacted bullying usually ceases immediately.

April 15, 2015

Publish and perish at Imperial College London: the death of Stefan Grimm

...I am by far not the only one who is targeted by those formidable guys. These colleagues only keep quiet out of shame about their situation. Which is wrong. As we all know hitting the sweet spot in bioscience is simply a matter of luck, both for grant applications and publications.

Why does a Professor have to be treated like that?

One of my colleagues here at the College whom I told my story looked at me, there was a silence, and then said: “Yes, they treat us like sh*t”.

Best regards,
Stefan Grimm
More details at: http://www.dcscience.net/2014/12/01/publish-and-perish-at-imperial-college-london-the-death-of-stefan-grimm/

Loss of career...

I was a student nurse at my university in Ormskirk (2009-2012). I spoke out about my personal tutor, I was victimised thereafter, and he had chosen my final elective placement were I was further bullied, and was not allowed to change.

He then compiled lies about me and put me through a fitness to practice. Staff stuck together, no one listened even higher up. The Office of Independent (OIA) has kept my case going for two years, first justified but nothing concluded, and closed case?
Then second case unjustified, but to go to a appeals panel on there decision. I explained that I did not want to go back to that place where I was bullied, and am already aware the direction this will take me, and what I have been through. But the OIA seems to have avoided the issues raised, and further closed my case. I lost my confidence, self esteem, suffered stress, along with loss of earning and loss of career.

April 11, 2015

Bullying @ Academy Union (AU)

Academic staff naturally look to their union representation both at branch and national level to represent them in the grisly task of taking on university management. It is therefore particularly alarming that the Academy Union (AU) management itself is facing mounting criticism for intimidation of its own members. AU currently has around 114,000 members (and dropping) and is the largest further and higher education union, dwarfing the rather rightist-focused Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) but both of course very modesty sized by comparison with the National Union of Teachers (NUT). Unlike ACL and NUT, AU is currently facing a severe internal crisis of confidence in its management structure. Ultimately the buck stops with AU General Secretary, Hally Sunt (pictured above).

More and more members are beginning to feel that the gap between dedicated campus campaigning and full-time union professionalism has become too vast! AU is a vertical union representing casualised researchers and teaching staff as well as “permanent” lecturers and professors. AU was formed by the 2006 merger of the rather lame-duck Association of University Teachers (AUT) and the somewhat more bolshie National Association of Teachers in F/HE (NATFHE). That merger was itself something of a conjuring act and the organisation which emerged from it has not yet come to terms with the political and social rift in its composition.

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The formidable, self-driven Hally Sunt was elected General Secretary of the union in 2007. She has firmly consolidated her grip on power and has so far beaten off all opposition by a combination of shrew political maneuvering and a capacity to exploit the cleavages between the varying shades of “leftism” which render AU largely impotent as a political force. Faced with lukewarm “old” and campaigning “new” Left, what AU have finally ended up with is a grandiose Hally…..The General Secretary, with all her quirks, has shrewdly emasculated her Executive to personally become the union!

AU is politically divided between the somewhat larger “broad left” whose members are mainly part of the old AUT and the harder “left” or “real left”, the more politically radical whose membership trace largely back to NATFE. The result is an operational lock-jaw which prevents the union from making a solid impact in its negotiations with university and college management.

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There can be no question that the work of the union is vital and that much professional and voluntary work is excellent. Apart from day to day branch case-work, AU is noted for its opposition to privatization of education, stopping academic casualisation, including the use of temporary contracts and campaigning for equality. None of these objectives have achieved much in recent years and the feeling among the rank and file is that the polite middle-class slant of AU crusading is something of a damp squid. Confronting AU demands at campus level is as exciting as being mauled by a toothless sheep.

In all of these areas AU have been attracting increasing dissatisfaction, reflected in a fall in membership and apathy among members. First AU`s track-record for case-work has been denigrated by the failure of so many of the cases it has taken to tribunal. Casual members, who now represent a growing proportion of the total membership, feel disenchanted with the elitist attitude of the union Executive.

The same unhappy sentiments are expressed by retired member’s branches. Effectively the union has abandoned them because with their reduced-rate subscriptions making up such a modest share of the union’s coffers, AU senior managers frankly believe casualized or retired members hardly deserve a voice! Indeed AU have been studiously trying to undermine its own Anti-Casualization Committee, one of the few genuinely critical voices at the heart of the union’s coal-face struggle. This has created an increasing unity between casualized and retired members which cuts across their ideological leanings. Ironically, it is among these poorest unionists, many with no proper job, that the most sterling sacrifices in time and effort have been made.

Other union campaigners have also been shafted. On intra-union equality, the union’s black members have demonstrated against the union’s apparent docility on issues affecting black comrades. It is striking that in recent years AU have yet  to champion a single grievance raised by an ethnic minority despite overt problems in the university and college sectors. Moreover since 2007, AU has been embroiled in controversy for its policy of boycotting Israeli academia. Some Jewish members resigned following claims of underlying institutional anti-Semitism. The union which “self-promotes” preoccupation with equality seems less equal than one might hope!

In July 2011, AU was notified of a Jewish member’s intention to sue under the Equality Act with the Employment Tribunal in September 2011 and was heard in the Summer of 2012. While the complaint was rejected this experience severely damaged AU`s reputation. The union’s own Equality Chief, Helena Cardigan, has frequently been criticized for lack of teeth, apathy with bread and butter equality issues, and being out of touch with the maelstrom of college equality challenges.

When under pressure AU’s stage response is to draft a new booklet- at a time when members desperately want action. Faced with a mounting catastrophe in both the Higher and Further Education sectors, the typical AU solution is to do a new “stress survey” beautifully compiled with a staff of dozens, and all from their five-star, politically correct offices in north central London!

The union has also been criticized for its reliance on e-surveys when determining policy such as in the General Secretary’s proposal to Congress in 2012 that the size of the National Executive Committee be reduced from 70 members to a maximum of 40, to save money. E-surveys were vehemently challenged at Annual AU Congress on the grounds that they ‘encourage people to vote without hearing the debates first’. But of course all Hally has cared about is carrying the vote, and so if e-democracy gets another victory for Hally, then more e-democracy AU shall certainly have! “To h..l” with the pseudo-democracy of Union Congress!

AU’s reputation has also suffered from a sense of being isolated financially and professionally from the majority of its members who are now casualized academic and academic-related staff. With the General Secretary on a salary and benefits package worth a rough but impressive total of £126,982, and the average salary and benefits of AU’s senior management team at about £105,000 (levels now well in excess of even the professoriate of the UK’s most prestigious universities) there is alarm at AU’s salary bill.

Things are a great deal better in the working benefits of AU staff than in the members the union serves. With many HQ staff saving their personal money by largely working from home, there is also increasing dissatisfaction that the range of perks, and the astonishing professional average salary for an AU official (£61,000) is also well in excess of the wages of the vast majority of the members it represents. AU is committed to a policy of merging the former NATFE staff with the higher AUT pay scales so that the only way for the salary bill to go is up. The future trend is a union with a vastly paid and benefit-pampered staff and a membership living on zero-hours contracts and college agency hours!

Recently facing an unprecedented financial crisis when its bank refused to allow any further borrowing without drastic restructuring, AU took action. However there was membership anger at a pay-off which led to a drop in staff compliment of just 5, but cost almost £1 million, and allegedly a single pay-off to a senior manager cost £350,000 and included his immediate re-employment at the same grade. This seems to be an utter moral contradiction of everything a trade union should stand for.

AU had previously been hammered for its decision to acquire new showcase premises in Camden Town when it took over a decade for the union to sell its old NATFE HQ in Britannia Street. When that building was eventually sold, just recently, after costing the union more than a half-million annually in security and up-keep, the sale was at a massive loss. This is professional financial mismanagement on a colossal scale! It is hard to conceive how the Executive could have allowed this mess to continue with only the most paltry and feeble criticisms.


By stark comparison, long-standing branch members are increasingly angry that AU union bosses now lack the financial resources to represent members legally and that the union has fallen into disrepute because of its lax financial protocols. Many feel their subs have gone into fat union pay-packets. To grassroots members it seems that the gulf between the professional union officials and the vast bulk of lecturers and researchers has got so vast, that AU have lost all moral authority. Moreover with Ms Sunt and some of her immediate senior management team facing accusations of bullying, many members are of the view that they have no-where to turn.

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There can be no question that from the moment of achieving power, Ms Sunt identified key staff as her “enforcers” of policy, but with AU losing out to the employers so consistently time after time in recent years, it seems that many members want to call time on Hally’s tenure. Heavily reliant on the “enforcement skills” of her secretive organizational mandarin, Saul Pottrell, many members have begun to question whether they have a union democracy or a Sunt dictatorship. For many stalwart unionists, Hally has long ago yielded totally and lost the moral high ground! But as a sometime club bouncer General Secretary Sunt is quite able to muscle her way through a decidedly luke-warm academic opposition.

Many ordinary AU members, especially those on the radical left wish to see a more proletarian union grounded in the genuine democracy of members. The elevation of a previous GS to the Lords (Baron Ties-man) is seen by many of the grassroots as symptomatic of a union which has no credibility and which is little more than a political platform for its senior professionals. As AU’s supposed heavyweight, many rank and file feel Hally has yielded totally to the employers, has lost the moral high ground, and the only place where she throws her weight around is with her own staff and the membership!

That approximately 86% of the union’s average budget now goes on salary and physical plant, and a mere ballpark 9% on membership defense and campaigning is viewed as a national disgrace. Finally, renewed accusations of bullying and intimidation of members by the senior management team, and the expulsion of outspoken dissident members, points to a union in crisis, and which ill equips its membership for the long fight against university and college employers.

ADVISORY: This is a work of humorous fiction and any similarities with persons or places real or imagined is purely a matter of coincidence. If you’ve been bullied or are unhappy with your union at any F/HE institution don’t hesitate in confidence to E-MAIL: bullied.academics@yahoo.co.uk  Victims may complain without penalty under their college procedures or consider making a complaint to their local police. Where the police are contacted bullying usually ceases immediately.