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Tuesday, Apr 13, 2021

Half of teachers experienced workplace bullying

Half of teachers experienced workplace bullying

Half of teachers surveyed say they have encountered workplace bullying over the past six months, according to Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union.
The survey results were announced two years after teacher Lam Lai-tong fell to her death at TWGHs Leo Tung-hai Lee Primary School in Tin Shui Wai.

The union conducted the survey of 1,283 people between February 25 and March 7, covering 544 secondary school teachers, 657 primary and 82 special school teachers, to investigate the workplace culture in schools.

It found that 53.8 percent of respondents encountered bullying at least once over the past six months.

Around 54 percent said they “always” encounter or “sometimes” encounter workplace bullying during the same period, while 26 percent said they were bullied at least once every month on average. Around 14 percent experienced bullying once or more a week.

The survey defined workplace bullying as a person being offended, teased, threatened or isolated due to abuse of power or unfair treatment, which produces enormous pressure on the bullied one physically or mentally.

"We worry that there are other extreme situations bearing similarity to Lam's case that we are not aware of. There may be other cases where teachers were bullied verbally by the principal,” said PTU vice-president Ip Kin-yuen.

“Bullying by superior happens more often than bullying by colleagues,” said Ip, as the survey found almost 50 percent of teachers did not think they were respected or fairly treated by their superiors.

Around 40 percent disagreed that they are respected or treated fairly by their colleagues.

Around half of the teachers would not stand up for their colleagues if they are not treated fairly. Most fear they will become another bullying target in the future, or management will not extend their contracts.

The survey also found incorporated management committee (IMC) members need more effective communication with teachers. The IMC has at least one school manager to be elected among teachers but 64.1 percent of teachers did not think the school manager can represent their opinions.

Sixty percent of the teachers disagreed that school management cares about their physical and mental health. The union suggested improving the complaints handling mechanism to ensure these are handled properly, with privacy of teachers respected.

PTU president Fung Wai-wah said they invited the Education Bureau to further discuss the issue, but has not received a reply in weeks.

“The bureau may consider Miss Lam’s case as an individual incident, but it is also the bureau’s responsibility to prevent such incidents from happening again,” he said.

The union encourages its members to seek help when encountering emotional problems caused by workplace bullying. Complaints can be filed to their rights and complaints department and serious cases will be referred for legal advice if necessary.

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