Bully victim fights back

PUBLISHED: 11:55 19 January 2006 | UPDATED: 09:27 06 May 2010

RAF Henlow

RAF Henlow

A MAN S futile attempts to report bullying in the workplace has led to years of trauma. Paul Barford, 45, of Heron Close, Sandy, had been working as a civil servant at RAF Henlow for 12 years. Problems at work made Mr Barford feel extreme victimisation an

Alistair Burt MP

A MAN'S futile attempts to report bullying in the workplace has led to years of trauma.

Paul Barford, 45, of Heron Close, Sandy, had been working as a civil servant at RAF Henlow for 12 years.

Problems at work made Mr Barford feel extreme victimisation and since 2002 he has been on long-term sick leave with work-related stress and now has the threat of dismissal hanging over him.

Fighting for Mr Barford in the House of Commons this week was Alistair Burt, MP for North East Beds, who called for a reform to the system.

Mr Burt said: "My constituent raised an issue concerning the bullying behaviour of a superior, in which he was proved right.

"He went on to formally highlight his wider concerns, and his subsequent mistreatment, using Ministry of Defence departmental procedures.

"But his wider allegations of conscience issues were left unanswered."

The ordeal started in 1999, when Mr Barford grew increasingly concerned about a new manager's leadership techniques and intimidation of staff.

He told local management of his grievances, who responded by "monitoring the situation" but circumstances did not improve and one year later the manager was disciplined for bullying.

Mr Barford said: "I felt very upset and aggrieved about all this and I considered that it all could have been avoided had my concerns been heeded when I raised them at the time."

During an end-of-year appraisal Mr Barford highlighted his dissatisfaction that his early concerns had gone unheeded.

He said: "I was immediately labelled a trouble-maker and was subjected to harassment due to my comments I recorded in my staff report.

"I was told I was harassing my line manager and I was put on notice that a harassment grievance was going to be raised against me on the basis of the comments that I made."

During proceedings to deal with these issues, Mr Barford, supported by Mr Burt, complained that the procedures employed by the Civil Service were outdated and unfair.

Mr Barford said: "The current regulations allow the department to be both the perpetrator and the judge on serious issues and this is an unfair conflict of interests.

"I believe we've raised important flaws in the system."

Mr Burt agrees, claiming that the Civil Service's rules on these issues are "defective and unfair".

He said: "All Mr Barford's hearings have had to be before MoD managers. This is outdated.

"In such circumstances, I believe it would be safer and more appropriate for the employee and the department concerned if wider opportunities were there for a reference to an independent source outside the department concerned once the departmental procedures have been followed without resolution.

"Without this, the issue of partiality is bound to arise.

"I am therefore publicly asking the Government to review its personnel procedures."

On Tuesday, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for the Cabinet Office, Jim Murphy, responded: "I am not convinced that there are compelling reasons to change the arrangements, but I am happy to meet the honorable gentleman to discuss the specific constituency matter."

Mr Barford says he has endured a terrible ordeal that has lasted several years and hopes that something positive will come out of it.

He said: "It's all very complicated but lessons should be learned.

"I hope that nobody else has to suffer from this type of thing. I feel I've been seriously wronged through no fault of my own, by simply wanting to raise concerns."

A spokesman for the MoD said: "The MoD fully complies with the relevant employment legislation governing bullying, harassment and grievance procedures. In some cases, our policy goes beyond statutory requirements.

"We have a policy of zero tolerance on bullying, and any allegations made are thoroughly investigated and action taken. Personnel have the right to live and work in an environment free from harassment, intimidation and discrimination.

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