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Academics and students abuse non-teaching staff, say UNISON

June 20 2005 - Support staff in Higher Education are treated with very little respect for the services they provide to academics and students according to a UNISON survey.

In the survey of UNISON members in Higher Education:

  • Around 20% of staff said that they had been at the receiving end of aggressive behaviour. 84% of this was serious verbal abuse, but 15% had suffered a violent attack.
  • A third of female respondents to the survey said that they had endured sexual harrasment and 20% of minority ethnic respondents had faced some form of racism.

According to Christina McAnea, UNISON Head of Education Services:

"It is an undeniable fact that support and professional staff are treated poorly by managers, colleagues and students. The sector needs to look long and hard at how it treats and protects its staff.

"Our lowest paid members are the ones who clean students rooms and serve their food and they deserve to be treated with more respect. Support staff take a great deal of the burden of day-to-day life away from students and lecturers so that they can concentrate on their academic work. Without support staff higher education couldn't function properly.

"It is disturbing to see that there is an underlying problem of sexism and racism. Not just from one group, but right across the board from managers, colleagues and students. We want to work with University managers to make sure we do more than just pay lip service to getting rid of this sort of behaviour."

The survey also revealed continued dissatisfaction with support staff pay and working hours. Almost three-quarters (74%) earn less than 20,000 a year and 75% reported that they worked unpaid overtime with no time off in lieu.

Christina McAnea commented:

"HE staff are the lowest paid in the public sector with an hourly rate currently starting at 5.27, little above the minimum wage. For the lowest paid worker this means they have an annual salary of just 10,400 for working a full week."

"It is completely unacceptable that Universities ranked amongst the best in the world pay their manual workers so little. This explains why universities are four times more likely to have problems recruiting manual staff than academics."


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