Union accuses v-c of mass bullying

November 4, 2005

Leeds Metropolitan University vice-chancellor Simon Lee was accused this week of mass bullying and of threatening to sack staff who do not attend next year's "staff development festival".

A document leaked to The Times Higher reveals that the vice-chancellor was concerned about attendance levels at the 2005 two-week programme of professional-development training held in the summer.

In a move condemned by lecturers' union Natfhe as "outright bullying" and a possible breach of contract, the vice-chancellor cancelled all leave during next year's festival fortnight. He warned: "It is difficult to see why we should continue to employ those few who do not wish to play an active role within the festival."

In the staff memo, dated September 15, Professor Lee writes: "Thank you to all who made the 2005 staff development festival such a success."

But he adds: "We are now looking at those members of staff who booked but then did not attend, who have also wasted festival places and university resources."

He says some staff said they could not attend the festival because their managers had "expected other duties to be carried out" at the same time.

"It is the responsibility of managers to organise their services... so colleagues can participate fully," Professor Lee writes.

The 2006 event will run from the end of August to September 15.

Professor Lee tells staff: "Please do not authorise any leave for this period. If there are any wholly exceptional requests for leave during the festival, please refer them to me, with your recommendation but without encouraging colleagues to think that permission will be given."

Andy Pike of Natfhe said: "The vice-chancellor seems very keen to turn what should be a positive event into a festival of staff bullying. Encouraging staff development is laudable, but you can't compel academic staff to take part in an event of this sort. Making threats to terminate the employment of those who don't attend is outright bullying."

A university spokesperson said: "At this year's festival, colleagues had the opportunity to develop professionally and personally. We believe this is a model of good practice. It is in line with our corporate plan commitment to a whole-university staff development festival."

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