Hardline resistance to stop bullying

June 4, 1999

The government has warned college managers to watch their step as lecturers take a stand on staff victimisation and bullying.

Lifelong learning minister George Mudie told delegates at the national conference of lecturers' union Natfhe that the time had come for colleges to "reshape" staff relations on a "more sensible and realistic basis".

He said: "We want colleges to understand that they themselves are under new management. Some (college) managements are bad, but they are being dealt with. Staff over the years have contributed to the survival of the sector. Some recognition of that should be (made) by colleges."

The government has already announced a package of anti-sleaze measures in further education. They include plans to give the Further Education Funding Council greater powers to intervene in college management and governance.

Delegates at the weekend conference in Southport voted for a hardline stance against bullying college managers. Much centred on an emergency motion passed about the threatened redundancy of whistleblowing lecturer Andrew Murray from Cricklade College in Hampshire.

Mr Murray, a Natfhe national executive member, blew the whistle when the Fraud Squad started investigations into a Pounds 1 million deficit at Cricklade. The investigations led to the suspension of principal Richard Evans. The college has said that the subsequent redundancy threat to Mr Murray is unconnected with his whistleblowing.

The motion called for a national campaign against victimisation, the possible suspension of Cricklade from national industrial relations negotiations and sanctions against Cricklade's management.

It was passed unanimously but only after a motion by Natfhe's southern and northwestern regions was redrafted. Originally it instructed Natfhe's national executive to withdraw from all talks with employers' body the Association of Colleges until Mr Murray was reinstated. This was dropped in the face of pressure from the NEC.

Despite this, Natfhe general secretary Paul Mackney made it clear to Mr Mudie and delegates that the union would stand firm behind victimised members. He called on the government to put pressure on Cricklade governors to publish their internal report into events at the college. Mr Mackney warned that the Cricklade issue could lead to disruption of the whole further education sector.

Alan John, incoming Natfhe president, said: "Andrew Murray must not be added to the list of people sacked for blowing the whistle. The governors must learn that this is not going to go away. Punish the wrong-doers not the people who have drawn attention to the wrong-doing."

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