Felix was two days away from being seven months clean of running a bullying headline. Unfortunately, it seems that despite all the surface commitments, little has changed in a university rocked so recently by a bullying scandal which garnered national press attention. The investigation into the treatment of Security staff here at Imperial provides damning evidence that a bullying culture pervades the College.
The officers’ experience with Human Resources (HR) is a worrying indicator that this “bullying culture” transcends the Security team and even their umbrella department, Campus Services. In fact, the obstinance and collusion with management exhibited by members of HR begs the question of just how equipped they are to deal with unfair treatment of employees across the university. By showing how HR has failed to mediate between officers and management, leaving staff feeling “betrayed”, this investigation may have also shone a light on how a culture of bullying has persisted at Imperial. Furthermore, the insufficiency of the grievance process points to a failure in the College complaints procedure.
However, the Security officers’ plight is heightened by the fact that they lack representation by recognised trade unions. Having been failed by Unison, most of Security is now represented by GMB, whose ability to protect officers’ rights is ultimately limited by the union’s lack of recognition by the College. On the other hand, recognition alone may not be the solution; whilst recognised union Unite did attempt to protect the Security officers’ rights, they had little success.
One of the issues raised by Security staff is the increase in sub-contracting by the College. They fear that they will eventually be replaced by agency staff. This favouring towards agency staff is a symptom of casualisation; the increasing use of Diligence and the rise in zero-hour contracts (which UCU members aim to “stamp out”) are two sides of the same coin. The key difference, however, is that whilst academic staff have been striking in part because of this issue, security don’t even have the power to do that. In a final stand, security have created a petition to the Provost, asking that their jobs and overtime cease to be threatened by replacement with agency staff.
Last week, a member of Security personnel informed HR that they were speaking to Felix. Shortly afterwards, that same member of staff had an overtime shift he had signed up for cut. Several Security officers had previously informed me that they believed cutting overtime is one of the bullying tactics used by their supervisors and management to keep them in line. Having heard officers’ stories, I would not be surprised if this is the case, and I fully condemn such a shameless and blatant attempt to bully Security staff into submission and into silence. Felix will be closely monitoring the treatment of Security staff following publication of this article.