Dignity At Work Now

Encouraging a healthy working environment for all

 

Dignity At Work Now

 (DAWN) Charity number 175. Registered 7th September 2005

Tel: 57799000  dignityatwork@gibtelecom.net

 

Today 12th May 2011 sees one year since an employee of Barclays, member of Unite the union met his death. To date, it seems, very little has been done to get to the root of this issue.

People may remember that Dignity At Work Now (DAWN) made a public statement on this, saying that there may be a relationship between bullying at work that this person was being subjected to and the tra

 

Dignity At Work Now

 (DAWN) Charity number 175. Registered 7th September 2005

Tel: 57799000  dignityatwork@gibtelecom.net

 

Today 12th May 2011 sees one year since an employee of Barclays, member of Unite the union met his death. To date, it seems, very little has been done to get to the root of this issue.

People may remember that Dignity At Work Now (DAWN) made a public statement on this, saying that there may be a relationship between bullying at work that this person was being subjected to and the tragic outcome in this case.

I spoke to Barclay’s boss, Mr Franco Cassar on two occasions and on both occasions I offered, at no expense to them, to undertake a study to assess how prevalent if at all, bullying may have been in the bank. The short of it was a no. I was informed that the union had to do with this negative response.

Despite this death having taken place in Spain, this may have been only the end result. What actually caused his death may have been in his place of work, here in Gibraltar.

Dignity At Work Now will respectfully remember Jason who may be the first known victim of bullying at work that tragically lead to his death.

One of the highest suicide rates in Europe today is in Britain. Each year in the UK over 5000 people take their life. The Samaritans estimate that in the UK there is a suicide every 82 minutes. The charity Depression Alliance estimates that each year there are around 19,000 suicide attempts by UK adolescents whilst more than 2 million children attend GP's surgeries with some kind of psychological or emotional problem.

The number of adults who commit suicide because of bullying, harassment and violence is unknown, it is estimated that bullying is a factor in a significant number of these suicides, estimated at 5000.

The suicide rate for 18-24-year-old males has jumped from 58 deaths per million of population in 1974 to 170 deaths per million in 1997. In October 1999, the UK government reported that the number of young males who commit suicide each year had doubled over the last ten years. One of the problems of young male suicide identified was men's reluctance to confide their problems in others, even their peers.

France also has a high suicide rate; each year there are around  200,000 attempted suicides by 15-25-year-olds, including 40-60,000 suicide attempts serious enough to warrant hospitalisation, and around 800 successful suicides. In 2009 there were over 20 suicides in the French multinational France Telecom and because it also happened in Peugeot all alarms went off in Europe. France decided to go beyond stress regulations, enabling specific recourse, joining countries such as Sweden and Finland.

A UK Mental Health Foundation survey published in February 2001 revealed that half of university students showed signs of clinical anxiety whilst more than 10% suffered from clinical depression. Although specific causes are hard to identify, those most often cited include student loans and debt, bullying, constant academic expectations through tests and exams, plus the sudden pressures of being away from home. This last issue may perhaps be particularly relevant to Gibraltar.

After a suicide the coroner will often conclude that "the balance of the mind was disturbed". However, Tim Field believes there is one cause of suicide which has until now been overlooked. Abuse in all its forms - bullying, harassment, stalking, domestic violence, sexual abuse etc - causes prolonged negative stress which cumulatively amounts to psychiatric injury. A prominent symptom of psychiatric injury is reactive depression, which gives rise to thoughts of suicide.

People kill themselves for a variety of reasons. Sometimes drugs and alcohol are a factor, as are social factors, poverty, deprivation, mental illness, etc. However, whilst some people decide to end their life because of despair, others take their life because they see it as a "logical step". I've often thought that the former category (despair) is the result of "mental illness", whilst the latter (logical step) is because of "psychiatric injury". The difference is important because injury has an external cause - in other words, something - or someone - is liable. The differences between mental illness and psychiatric injury are often not recognized; understanding the differences could alter the verdict, perhaps from suicide to manslaughter.

Bullying, harassment and abuse cause injury to health, which is often diagnosed as stress and anxiety but may also include depression. Prolonged negative stress can culminate in a cocktail of symptoms often congruent with the diagnostic criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD; these include anxiety, anger, reactive depression, phobia, tearfulness, social withdrawal, disbelief, panic attacks, fatigue, sleeplessness, migraines, joint and muscle pains, excessive guilt, suicidal thoughts, loss of self-esteem and self confidence. Suicide can also result from overwork, which the Japanese call karoshi. In the year 2000 there were 33,000 suicides in Japan.

http://www.bullyonline.org/ provides unique insight into both the tactics and effects of bullying and harassment and reveals the main perpetrator of bullying, the serial bully. Everyone, whether dealing with suicide or not, has experience of at least one person in their life with the profile of the serial bully. It may be at home with a violent partner or family member, or at work with an aggressive co-worker or boss, or with an aggressive neighbour, or at school with the school bully. Living or working with a serial bully can drive you to suicide.

See www.bullyonline.org/workbully/serial.htm to see who you know with this behaviour profile.

DAWN recognises Tim Field’s great contribution in the understanding of such a difficult subject and we are grateful to him for the legacy that he has left us.

 

Francis Buttigieg (Chairman)

For Dignity At Work Now

 

 

Press release re: Barclays (Gibraltar) 

 

 

Dignity At Work Now

(DAWN) Charity number 175. Registered 7th September 2005

Email: dignityatwork@gibtelecom.net Website: www.dignityatworknow.webs.com

Tel. 57799000

 

   Press release

20th May 2010

 

                                                                       

Dignity At Work Now (DAWN) would like to send its most sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the tragic death of Jason Rumfitt, employee of Barclays Bank. It is expected for Barclays to undertake a full and thorough investigation.

 

Since September 2005 Dignity At Work Now has called on everyone through its Ban Bullying campaign for the eradication of bullying at work. It is well documented that bullying may have devastating negative repercussion on the wellbeing and health of the employees. (European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, [EFILW], 2007)

 

Bullying at work is an aggressive and threatening behaviour that is characterized by the prolonged and recurring presence of abusive, humiliating and discriminatory acts that potentially generates a state of victimization and defencelessness, emotional, behavioural and somatic alterations to the person to whom these are directed and therefore represents a threat to the physical and psychological health of the employees. Suffering from the effects of bullying may cause severe stress, burnout, trauma, major depression and may lead to suicidal risk. (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf and Cooper, 2003; WHO, 2003).

 

Preliminary local study shows that 31.1% of employees consider themselves being victims of bullying at work, that’s almost 1 in 3. This means that over 5000 people are being bullied in Gibraltar today (Vielma & Buttigieg, 2007).

 

As a NGO we promote dignity at work and call on all employees and employers to repudiate any organizational system of work or philosophy that may be favouring bullying behaviour in our places of work as a coercive mechanism to control employees to further the interests of industries.

 

We ask the Government, Unions, Chambers of Commerce, Gibraltar Federation of Small Business, Bar Association, medical and mental health organizations to actively join forces and efforts with us to support the creation and implementation of a Dignity at Work Policy and legislation to prevent bullying at work and its devastating consequences in our community. We urge the community to actively participate to protect and support the employees that at present continue exposed to bullying within our places of work in Gibraltar.

 

 

Francis P. Buttigieg

Chairman

For and on behalf of DAWN

 

Email: dignityatwork@gibtelecom.net Tel: 57799000

 

 

 

 

DIGNITY AT WORK NOW

Mrs. Aylen N Vielma, (Secretary), Dr. René Beguelin.  Mr. Vincent Azzopardi (Treasurer),

Mr. Francis P. Buttigieg (Chairman)

 

 

 

 

 

 

___________________________________________________________________

 

Ban Bullying Day 2008

 

 

 

In the Press

 

Dignity At Work Now

Charity number 175. Registered on the 7th September 2005

Po Box 1470

Tel: 57799000 or dignityatwork@gibtelecom.net

Website: www.dignityatworknow.webs.com

 

 

Ban Bullying Day 14th November 2008

 

The Gibraltar Constitution:

 

Protection from inhuman treatment.

 

5. No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other such treatment.

 

Bullying at Work constitutes a significant problem in the European workforce, Gibraltar included.

 

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has as one of its priorities the tackling of work related stress (WRS) and some of its key triggers. Bullying is highly associated with WRS. The costs of bullying are considerable for both the employee and the employer/organization apart from the fact that bullying should be regarded as unethical, oppressive behaviour and therefore simply unacceptable in the work environment.  Prevention of bullying  at  work  is  one  of  the  objectives in the communication from the European Commission on the new strategy on Health and Safety.  http://europe.osha.eu.int/systems/strategies/future/#270

 

Dignity At Work Now (DAWN) in Gibraltar is spearheading a campaign to get the seriousness of this problem, and the need to address it locally, recognized. DAWN wishes to express its gratitude and appreciation to the many people of Gibraltar and others who have responded so positively to DAWN’s initiative.

 

So what is bullying?

 

An example of a definition is:

 

Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable behaviour directed towards an employee, or group of employees, that creates a risk to health and safety.

 

Within this definition:

 

‘unreasonable behaviour’ means behaviour that a reasonable person, having regard to all the circumstances, would expect to victimise, humiliate, undermine or threaten;

 

‘behaviour’ includes actions of individuals or a group. A system of work may be used as a means of victimising, humiliating, undermining or threatening;

 

‘risk to health and safety’ includes risk to the mental or physical health of the employee.

 

Bullying involves a misuse or abuse of power, where the targets can experience difficulties in defending themselves.

 

 

Bullying can involve both verbal and physical attacks, as well as more subtle acts like devaluation of a colleague’s work or social isolation. Bullying may encompass both physical and psychological violence both by commission and omission.

 

 

 

Why does bullying occur?

 

Two types of bullying can be distinguished:

 

1) As a consequence of an escalated inter-personal conflict;

2) Where the victim has not been involved in a conflict, but is in a situation where the perpetrator exerts his or her acts of aggression. ‘Scape-goating’ is an example of this type of bullying.

 

Some factors increasing the probability of bullying include:

 

Organisational culture that condones bullying behaviour or fails to recognise it as a problem;

• Abrupt organisational change;

• Insecure employment;

Poor relationships between staff and management, and low levels of satisfaction with leadership;

Poor relationships between colleagues;

Extreme levels of work demands;

Shortcomings in staff policy and insufficient common values;

Generally increased levels of WRS;

• Role conflicts.

 

Furthermore, bullying can escalate due to individual and situational factors such as discrimination, intolerance, personal problems and use of drugs or alcohol.

 

 

Legislation

 

The case for legislation and for the Unions’ involvement and for the Gibraltar Trade Council’s is well supported. The European Commission has introduced measures to ensure the safety and health of workers. The 1989 Council Directive (89/391) contains the basic provisions for health and safety at work and it makes employers responsible for making sure employees do not suffer harm through work, including as a result of bullying. Member States have all implemented this Directive through legislation and some in addition have developed guidance on preventing bullying. Following the approach in the Directive, to eliminate or reduce bullying, employers in consultation with workers and their representatives should:

 

            • Aim to prevent bullying

            • Assess the risks of bullying

            • Take adequate action to prevent the harm.

 

Bullying is mentioned in the European Commission’s guidance on WRS. Furthermore, the European Parliament has passed a motion for a resolution on harassment at the workplace.

The Commission communication on a Community strategy on health and safety 2002-2006 also takes account of Article 31 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which states that:  

 

"every worker has the right to working conditions which respect his or her health, safety and dignity". (http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/social_dialogue/docs/consultation_violence_en.pdf)

 

At present, several European countries have adopted special legislation regarding bullying at work. In a number of countries, however, legislation is under consideration or preparation, and some countries have taken regulatory steps by means of charters, guidelines, and resolutions.

 

 

 

 

The EU Parliament:

 

“Calls on the Member States, with a view to counteracting bullying and sexual harassment at work, to review and, if appropriate, to supplement their existing legislation and to review and standardise the definition of bullying.” It recommends that:

 

• Member States ensure that private and public organisations and social partners put in place effective prevention policies;

 

• A system is established for exchanging experience;

 

Procedures are specified to solve the problem of harassment for victims and prevent any recurrence; and

 

• That information and training of employees, managers, social partners and workplace doctors be developed, in both the private and public sectors.

 

 

Bullying involves a misuse or abuse of power, where the targets can experience difficulties in defending themselves.

 

Stopping bullying at work requires the active involvement of all that are or may be directly affected by it. The individual, their representatives and their employers all need to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in.

 

The individual: by exposing acts of bullying when a victim of it or when a witness to it. Proper mechanisms would need to be in place to protect the victims of bullying.

 

The representative: usually a union, by not shying away from representing the employee suffering this unacceptable behaviour, with cheap excuses like, “it’s very difficult to prove”. It is not.

 

The employer: by encouraging its employees, regardless of status, to be respectful towards each other, with both employer and management, leading by example.  Ensuring that there is a proper system and objective approach to dealing with bullying complaints.

 

DAWN takes courage in Gibraltar from the public’s response and pledge ourselves to continue in our endeavours:

 

1.          To encourage Parliament that it should enact legislation like the Dignity At Work Bill together with a Standard of Behaviour at Work Policy (found in our web site: www.dignityatworknow.webs.com) that will safeguard the dignity and respect at work of Gibraltar employees over and above the existing non-specific legislation and ensure the establishment of properly regulated mechanisms within organizations/places of work to adequately deal with grievances of this nature. We believe that this is such an important question that nothing short of legislation may satisfactorily ensure that safeguard (especially, sadly, given certain employers and individuals, some of who abuse their position and/or encourage/allow others, by act or omission, to do likewise);

 

2.          To urge Unions to offer awareness-raising and training sessions for members, union officials and management and to make this an integral part of their permanent service to its members.

 

3.          To offer support and advice to individuals and organizations/places of work requesting this from us.

 

A first ever local preliminary study shows:

 

·         31.1%

of employees consider themselves being victims of bullying at work given the definition of bullying, that’s almost 1 in 3.

·           39.3%

say they have been witnesses of bullying in their places of work.

·             77.6%

say that they are subjected to at least one bullying conduct (bullying scale).

·             58.5%

of respondents say bullying comes from management.

 

This initial study shows the scale and gravity of the problem in Gibraltar and it needs to be taken seriously if we really want to improve the quality of our working life.

 

The limited individual instances listed below as examples, each wrong and unacceptable in itself even once, would, singly or in combination, constitute bullying (if sustained over time) and may cause serious psychological harm to the victim, such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, complex posttraumatic stress disorder, not to mention the effect to the industry, costs etc:

 

·         Spreading malicious rumours, ‘whisper campaign’;

·         Competent staff being constantly criticised, having responsibilities removed;

·         Exclusion or victimisation;

·         Overbearing supervision and other abuses of power or position;

·         Setting up a person to fail by setting impossible deadlines;

·         Shouting at or demeaning a person;

·         Undermining and blocking promotion through not facilitating training opportunities;

·         Having your view and opinions ignored or even sought, despite having an interest;

·         Regularly making the same person the butt of jokes: often abuse dressed up as banter;

·         Being uncooperative just because its you;

The above is a (very) small list of examples extracted from the substantial list identified by experts. Even so, readers may recognise some of them.

 

At the organizational level, the costs of bullying can result in high absenteeism and staff turnover, reduced effectiveness and productivity, not only for the victims of bullying but also for other colleagues who suffer from the negative psychosocial climate in the work environment. Reputational damages arising from bullying cases can also be high, particularly in small places like Gibraltar.

 

 

A survey (2006) by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that “20% had experienced some form of bullying or harassment” with highest levels reported in the public sector. (www.cipd.co.uk/pressoffice/_articles/bullying241006.htm?IsSrchRes=1)

 

Examples of some EU countries that have laws against bullying and or harassment:

 

Sweden: Victimization at Work Act, Adopted 21st September 1993.

Germany: On 1 August 2002, the "Zweite Gesetz zur Änderung schadensrechtlicher Vorschriften" ("Second Act on the Amendment of Legislation concerning Compensation") came into force. The Act stipulates that employers who are aware of mobbing [bullying] happening in their company must do everything in their power to prevent it. The Act enables employees to claim damages from their employers if the latter did not take sufficient measures to protect their employees sufficiently from such attacks.

France: Industrial Relations Act (1999) & Law for "Social Modernization" (2002).

 

Belgium: July 2002, a new law on protection against violence, bullying and sexual harassment at work took effect, known as the 'Onkelinx law' after the then Federal Minister of Employment and Labour, Laurette Onkelinx. The new law extended the provisions of an existing law relating to workers' well-being in carrying out their work, by adding a number of provisions that focused specifically on these issues

UK: Protection from Harassment Act 1997. An Act for protecting persons from harassment and similar conduct. (successfully use in a court of law to defend victims of bullying). UK Civil Service policy: “Civil Service departments and agencies are obliged to ensure staff work in a safe and non-threatening environment. They all have equal opportunities statements and related procedures in place to achieve this. Staff and managers must be made aware of their responsibilities in ensuring a safe and non-threatening environment, as must equal opportunity officers so they can monitor and review progress.” (http://www.civilservice.gov.uk/iam/cs_policy/diversity/harassment.asp)

Spain: Although there no specific law against bullying at work (mobbing or acoso moral) in Spain yet, there are other laws that afford the employee protection and recourse against this potentially devastating behaviour. Devastating to the industry but most importantly to us, devastating to the employee. Artículos 4 y 50 del Estatuto de los trabajadores; artículo 115 de la Ley general de la Seguridad Social; artículo 14 de la Ley de prevención de riesgos laborales; artículos 8, 12 y 13 de la Ley de infracciones y sanciones en el orden social.’

It is quite clear that in respect of legislation specifically targeting bullying at work, Gibraltar is behind the above territories. However, this can easily be remedied by getting all interested parties involved in a process of consultation.

We consider it is important that we do not lag behind, for if time catches up on us on the issue of bullying at work under its many forms and guises (some more obvious, some more subtle and insidious), a more encompassing EU directive may well impose the necessary specific standards on us. What a shame this would be, that we should have to wait longer than we need to, with all the unnecessary psychological hurt and suffering that would occur in the interim, simply because we did not address the matter ourselves, not to mention the fact that certain managers and others who engage in bullying in the workplace should remain unchecked and continue unstopped in their dysfunctional tracks in the absence of specific legislation and updated policy document.

 

Every reasonable and responsible employer would consider as paramount its most important resource: the human resource.

 

Francis Buttigieg

For DAWN

 

Encouraging a healthy working environment for all

 

 

 

DIGNITY AT WORK NOW

Mrs. Aylen N Vielma, Dr René Beguelin, Mr. Vincent Azzopardi (Treasurer). Mr. Anthony MacDonald (Secretary).

Mr. Francis P. Buttigieg (Chairman)

 ___________________________________________________________________

 

Failure of Trade Unions to support members

 

Sometimes the local (unpaid) trade union officer is helpful and supportive, but once the case move up to a paid union official, often the member finds their case frustrated. Many report that their paid trade union official, appears indistinguishable from the management and that their trade union, despite the public rhetoric, they appears to be more interested in maintaining its good relationship with the employer than meeting the legally-binding contractual obligations to its members.

 

There are many reasons why trade union representatives fail to support their members, including lack of resources, weak or no law, disinterest, fear of retaliation by employer, lack of training, lack of support within the union, contempt for members, complicity, fraternal obligation and more. All play their part. I'm convinced that given the scale, consistency and time this has being going on, that there are other reasons, which are explored here.

 

Government and Local Trade Union interdependence

 

Despite public disagreements, the Trade Unions and the Political Party are mutually reliant. The Labour government in the UK for example, is dependent on financial and political support from the trade unions in order to remain in power, and the trade unions are reliant on the Labour government to fulfil the needs and interests of the trade unions. It is unclear whether local trade unions contribute financially to the Government of the day, but it is strongly suggested that there may be other interdependencies; self-interest, self-preservation, favours owed, political ideology etc. etc.

 

Government has taken no action to deal with the issue of workplace bullying and worse still, nor have the Unions, really. Any representation to Govt. is quickly aborted with “that is a matter for the Unions” yes, the very same aforementioned and later described Unions.

 

In November 2008 Dignity At Work Now placed a three meter long banner in main street, stating that ‘over five thousand [5000] employees are being bullied in Gibraltar today’, apparently, NO ONE MOVED A FINGER, Government, Unions or anyone else! ¿Sordo, mudo y Ciego? I say, a sign of the seriousness of this issue.

 

Given that the direct, indirect and consequential costs of bullying in Gibraltar may be comparable to the amount in the UK and given that in many instances there is parity with salaries, this may be costing the tax payer a few million pounds every year through absenteeism, presenteeism, sick leave, etc, etc . The government's disinterest and tardiness suggests a distinct lack of enthusiasm for the subject. Perhaps it's too close to home.

Naivety of bullying at work belies the fact that in over 95% of cases the sole concern of the employer seems to be to get rid of the target of bullying and to protect the bully - whatever it costs. In a survey in 2005 most respondents said they believed HR departments protect institutions and help bullies rather than victims, Gibraltar is no different. The purpose of bullying, (apart from the workplace psychopath who relishes seeing other suffer for fun), is to hide inadequacy, and behind most cases there's a can of worms (recruitment through nepotism or favouritism rather than ability or meritocracy, negligence, incompetence, maladministration, neglect of duty, dereliction of duty, breaches of health and safety regulations, breaches of rules and regulations, breaches of codes of conduct, improper use of fraternal allegiances etc. etc.) so the employer's response is not surprising. Occasionally an employer with integrity may ask for advice on dealing with a case, which restores my faith in humanity, temporarily.

 

People in high places say things like, "Bullying would be very difficult to define in a legal and workable context". Anything you don't understand is difficult to define. The similar arguments were used in response to proposals to introduce laws on discrimination and harassment. Yet we have the Equal Opportunity Act 2004. If there is a will there is always a way! [Part Two Continues Next Week]

 

 

Failure of trade unions to support members (Part Two)

 

Government terrified of an avalanche of claims?

 

If bullying consisted of a rabid dog that affected the finance centre, members of the chamber of commerce or banking etc, there'd be a new law inside a week. We believe the eradication of bullying at work will lead to cost savings and efficiency improvements. Tax cuts are a sacred objective close to the heart of any government which makes it all the more mysterious as to why the government should avoid the issue of workplace bullying and fail to take any substantive action.

 

In failing to take the issue of workplace bullying seriously (as would be evidenced by substantive action) I have formed the opinion that the government to be terrified of an avalanche of employment tribunals and personal injury claims caused by bullying at work. There's the embarrassment of public exposure of the inadequacy and shortcomings (the main reasons for bullying) of the senior managers of Govt. Depts., Authorities and Government owned companies. Civil Service and local government departments fear coming under scrutiny for wasting public funds and for not meeting targets and for not delivering

 

In the UK, a holy grail of the Labour Party, and hence the trade unions, is to reduce the number of employment tribunals. Each year in the UK around 1 in every 200 jobs in the UK heads towards an employment tribunal. The government's efforts seem to be focused on reducing the number of cases that make it to tribunal, rather than identifying and addressing the causes of the need to seek redress via the legal system. Bullying, in all its forms, is a major cause.

 

It's no surprise that bullying, stress caused by bullying, and stress caused by related and other factors including bad management are rife in public and private sector organisations. The climate of fear is everywhere. On 24 September 1998 Dr Peter Graham, Head of Health Directorate at the United Kingdom Health & Safety Executive stated that "Poor management is a major cause of stress", Durham or no Durham.

 

Surveys of bullying in the GHA in 2007 produced a figure of 1 in 3 nurses bullied at work in the previous six months. Schools, colleges and universities are rife with bullying (between adults). Most cases of bullying are also personal injury cases for stress or stress breakdown. Personal injury cases last on average 5 years, and in rare successful cases the payouts can be around £250,000, (UK) with similar costs. Gibraltar is still to see the first case of bullying to be defended successfully in a tribunal. Why? This will not surprise anyone, unlike our fellow Europeans; we have no laws to protect employees in this little European corner of ours. Think about it, we inherit more rights and protection north of the border as tourists than in Gibraltar. Mad or what?

 

 

When a trade union fails to provide support and access to legal services to a member who is losing their job, livelihood, health and more because of bullying and stress or whistle blowing - i.e. the trade union is failing to meet its legally-binding contractual obligations to the member, for which the member has been paying for years in expectation of support - the sense of betrayal intensifies the symptoms of Complex PTSD may manifest. When the trade union official works, or appears to the member to be working, with the employer and against the interests of the subscription-paying member, the sense of betrayal is further intensified. The feeling of emotional and psychological rape is intense. Betrayal and rape produce similarly profound feelings of violation and consequent anger. The unacceptable behaviour of employers, HR departments and trade union officials in colluding with the bully and getting rid of the target fuel an all-consuming sense of injustice to which many people devote their lives to redressing.

 

Trade unions exist to fight for the rights of their members, especially in situations where the member is unable to take action for themselves, whatever the reason. Whilst many grass roots local trade union representatives work hard - sometimes with risk to their own careers - for the benefit of members, the same level of commitment is often not reflected by paid trade union officials and trade unions. [Part Three Continues Next Week]

 

Failure of trade unions to support members (Part Three)

 

 

Why won't my trade union support me?

 

It seems that trade unions could be seen as putting political expediency ahead of the interests of members whose subscriptions are accepted in the full knowledge of the likely subsequent denial of the union's assurance to fulfil legally-binding contractual obligations to those members. You pay your money and you don't get the support. It goes without saying that trade unions and trade union officials who repeatedly fail their members bring trade unions into disrepute. Betraying those trade unions and whose officers, representatives and members are committed to working to preserve the rights of workers.

 

 

It seems to me that the time of successful denial and frustration of cases of unfair dismissal and personal injury arising out of bullying in the public sector is now jeopardised by the work of Unions who must now answer to allegations of why some trade unions appear to limit their interest in cases to cherry-picking those members with interesting cases which, if successful, can be used in press releases to trumpet alleged trade union achievements. What this means in practice is that any trade union member with a run-of-the-mill everyday case of bullying and stress resulting in loss of job, career, income, livelihood, health and detriment to home and family life will, regardless of how many years they've being paying subscriptions in expectation of services in time of need, be rejected in favour of the few sexy cases. Whatever happened to original trade union principles?

 

What can you do?

 

·       If you're in a trade union, or are thinking of joining one, consider carefully whether the trade union will really provide the services it claims. At least half of all workers will experience bullying at work, so check out a union's track record before deciding to join. Ignore any recruitment campaigns, fancy awards and hyped-up claims and instead look for a consistent pattern; success in a token case will not be a guide to your case. Bear in mind that when you join a union you'll be bombarded with offers for cheap gimmicks and promises that in time will be forgotten. Your only interest is in whether your prospective trade union will support you when you need it. The experience of www.bullyonline.org and other help lines and support groups and organisations including DAWN, OXBOW, Andrea Adams Trust and Freedom to Care is that trade unions are, on balance and especially in the public sector, unlikely to support you in cases of bullying, stress and personal injury and that in many cases the union may appear to work with your employer to frustrate and block your case. After bullying you may well lose your job, career, health and probably more whilst the trade union paid officials continue to collect their salary - paid for by your subscriptions.

 

·       Your trade union general secretary will continue to collect an annual salary probably several times the size of yours, plus pension benefits etc, all taken from your subscriptions. It would be interesting to see how much paid Union leaders salaries in Gibraltar are as compared to the average earnings.

 

 

·       Bullying, stress and stress breakdown in the public and private sectors are not as sexy as the war in Iraq but they probably kill more people. Write to Peter Caruana and ask him why he is so committed to indirectly financing countries hostile to Gibraltar and so uncommitted to addressing and solving the problems of the people who voted - and who may, or may not - vote for him at the next general election. Write to the leaders of the Gibraltar Social Labour Party, the Liberal Party and the Progressive Democratic Party.

 

·       Write to your MEP with a summary of your case and ask for the issue of bullying, stress and the failure of unions to support their members to be moved up the political agenda. Before long there will be a general election coming.

 

We deserve better!

 

Francis Buttigieg Chairman for Dignity At Work Now dignityatwork@gibtelecom.net  Tel. 57799000

in collaboration with the late Tim Field of www.bullyonline.org. for which we are forever indebted.

 

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