North West college: Report finds 'culture of fear' among staff

North West Regional College The college said it accepts the core findings of the report

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A report into an industrial relations dispute at the North West Regional College highlights allegations of "a culture of fear" among staff.

The 98-page report has called for widespread changes to rebuild trust between staff and management.

The North West Regional College employs 852 staff at its campuses in Londonderry, Limavady and Strabane.

The college has said it accepts the core findings of the report.

Welcoming the report, the University and College Union said it had "shone a bright light" into the style of management at the college.

"UCU activists and members who dared stand up to the culture of fear at the college have been completely vindicated by this report," a statement from the union said.

The employment and learning minister Stephen Farry, whose department published the report, said the college and the unions must now co-operate.

Mr Farry said it was unacceptable that there was a culture of fear at the college.

The report was compiled by equality and human resources consultant Harry McConnell.

Mr McConnell spoke to about 50 people - including senior and middle management, the governing body and teaching and non-teaching staff belonging to different unions.

It found that 29 staff have been disciplined since 2007, a figure, the report says, that seems higher than would have been expected.

It goes on to say that communication has not always been open or clear, staff are not consulted on key issues and their views are not taken into account in advance of decision making.

'Perceived culture'

The report also said there were grounds for concern that senior management made or implemented decisions in a way that was inconsistent with the college's values.

There is also criticism of the college's human resources strategy, which staff say cannot be trusted to provide support.

The report says the college's governing body is perceived as ineffective and not able to adequately challenge senior management or hold them to account.

However, the report says there is no evidence that the ongoing problems have had a negative impact on the teaching of students.

In a statement North West Regional College said: "We accept the core tenet of the report - that industrial relations in the college are unacceptable and have been so for some considerable time.

"We have concerns in relation to the perceived culture within the organisation as represented in the report, in particular the perceived levels of trust, respect and fear within the college and the nature of the relationship between the college and the university and college union.

"We have already begun to tackle the issues highlighted in this report and we will not stop until these issues have been addressed."

The University and College Union's Jim McKeown said the report had lessons for management at other colleges.

"We will examine the recommendations carefully and if there is a willingness by the governing body at the North West to genuinely address the issues raised they will not find UCU wanting," he said.

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