Saturday, 7 March 2015

Human Rights and Stress in the Workplace: Yvonne Oldfield - PPTA Issues and Organising Conference 2015 - Workshop

Human Rights and Stress
Yvonne Oldfield

Are Labour Rights Human rights?
Normative - something that is inherently right, has a moral force or absolute value
Something you don’t have to bargain for or fight for. A normative right is something that is a given.

“A human right is not earned or legislated into existence and cannot be bargained away… it attaches to the very fact of being human.” (Hugh Collins/Virginia Mantouvalou)

Moral weight - health and safety goes to issues of survival.. a facet of … “inalienable facet of life.”
Universal application - must apply to everyone. We are all workers or potential workers
Stringency and timelessness - accept that no activity can be entirely risk free

Uni of Dec on H R (1948)

Right to work (article 23):
  1. Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment…

International covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Right to work
  • Right to safe and healthy working conditions
  • social security
  • etc

Health and Safety and the ILO
  • Millennium Dec… Decent Work Agenda
  • Seoul Dec (2008)
    • Safe and healthy work environment - human right

Defining the right -

“The right to work in an environment reasonably free from predictable, preventable, serious risk” - Spieler

What does this mean in practice?
  • stress: personality differences, the idea that you are to blame,
  • physical: short and having to stand on tables,
  • workload:
  • Communication breakdown: SMT to Staff, HOH and Teachers, Teachers to Teachers, holistic
  • Extra-Curricular and Extra Opportunities for Ss. Expectation that you should do it.
  • responses put us at risk, “teacher just needs to harden up”,
  • Unacceptable behaviour
  • Feel stressed when our response taps into physiological and psychological stress
  • Situation will affect everyone differently -
  • Minimise risk -

Difficult to define the expectations and the responsibility and blame for stress.

The need to have a Health and Safety rep at school.
The need to have support networks
Boards should have a policy.
Process needs to be really clear: identify hazard or problem - who to talk to - knowledge that they’re going to deal with it.

What are the key elements of the right?
  • Predictable?
  • Preventable?
  • Serious?

Who are the “duty holders” - who is responsible for ensuring that this right is upheld?

  • Everyone -
  • ERO - identifying that conversations

Elements of the right:
  • Rights to information about the dangers on the job (goes to worker control/informed choice)
  • Freedom to protest or refuse work (level of risk may change over time, or new information become available)
  • Worker participation (Robens model predicted on full engagement by workers)

For new teachers this is HUGE. We feel too scared to say that we’re overwhelmed because we’d be looked as if we were incompetent.

Not speaking up. Scared you’ll lose your job. Lost to the profession. Not compensated. We’ve lost teachers from heart attacks. Stress can be fatal.

Stress in Teaching:
Teaching has always been considered stressful - research by England’s Health and Safety Executive, found it to be one of the most high-pressure careers, with 41.5% of teachers reporting themselves “highly stressed”. www.the

The Role of the State: monitoring and enforcement:
Maastricht Guidelines: States must acknowledge legitimacy of rights and meet obligations to:
  • Respect (don’t undermine workplace safety)
  • Protect (set standards to prevent violations by third parties) and
  • Fulfil (monitor/administer/enforce to ensure the realisation of rights).

What are the health and safety issues for teachers?

Specifics on Stress:
  • increased workload
  • being asked to now perform extra initiatives beyond training (academic mentoring, guidance counselling, negotiators, policing students)
  • expectation of being available 24/7
  • fast paced initiatives that don’t really change anything though they are pushed out as if they will change everything
  • diversity of student behaviour - expectation to fix it
  • personalising of programmes
  • HOD - extra legislation to ensure..
  • Middle Management and senior mngmt are sometimes bullies, tell you to suck it up, build a bridge and move on
  • PPTA expectations and having to fight for our rights as teachers and as workers
  • Data gathering
  • ADMIN: academic tracking sheets
  • Building portfolio for appraisal
  • Engendered by increasing vulnerability of fixed term contract, casualty of the workplace
  • constantly having to be on top of behaviour
  • Restorative Justice: restorative chats to get things sorted, missing out on breaks, becoming seen as a bad teacher for taking your breaks
  • Can’t say NO. The mechanism for relieving stress is creating stress
  • Under more pressure to keep up with tech and expectations of the digital load
  • Erosion of work/life balance
  • Mentoring -
  • LACK of TIME.
  • Time pressure
  • Given an extension of form class to do academic counselling - track it on KAMAR. Checking up on us for not doing our job
  • Hekia saying we need to raise the bar all of the time and what we need to achieve
  • Summer school
  • Extra classes, more credits, “Can’t you find a Unit Standard for them to do during the holidays?”
  • If you follow procedures, sometimes it doesn’t work and then it’s not followed through.
  • The tension of when a teacher can reasonably say NO. Or question the situation.

  • Govt?
  • BOT?
  • PPTA?

Information is a key issue. But if you don’t know where to go with it or whether it will be followed up - then what will happen?

What is workplace stress?
  • “work-related stress is the response people may have when presented with work demands and pressures...which challenge their ability to cope.
  • Stress occurs in a wide range of work circumstances but is often made worse when empoyees feel they have little support from supervisors and colleagues as well as little control over work processes
  • There is often confusion between pressure or challenge and stres and sometimes it is used to excuse bad management practice.”

Survey to be created and sent out to branches

Workload Taskforce: paper version has been done. Digital survey to be created and all schools will be doing it this term. Encourage your colleagues to do it.

Need to tie in consequences. Need to show the outcomes of people with health issues.

What are the health issues that flowed with stress levels.
Need exit surveys when people leave schools.

What might a safe system of work look like?
How can we:
Prevent (Eliminate)?
Reduce (Minimise)?

With stress and violence in schools?

OUR thoughts: It is too individualised. Those who have the stress need to say that they’re stressed and feel comfortable in their workplace to be able to do so. Access the tools available to them individually.

The main problem is that people don’t feel able to stress out.

Group discussion:
When new initiatives are introduced - a RAMS audit should be done. If staff were consulted then risks would be reduced. Something has to be taken off. Layer upon layer upon layer. “What is this replacing?” You may only do it for a couple of years (the money is gone) and all of your hard work is gone. How are you going to show that it’s working?Measure effectiveness. Need to measure effect of initiatives. Never any evaluation of the initiatives brought in and how effective they were.

More support needed for eLearning. Include use of volunteers. What is effective of modern learning?

Abide by the contract.

Nurse/other specialists not able to help staff.

Limits on work time - start by measuring hours.

Preventing stress in schools…
  • develop a constructive workplace culture based on decent work, professional respect, basic health and safety principles, tolerance, equal opportunity, and quality of service
  • Promote a culture of school or organizational healthiness - redesigning work, ergonomics, teacher training and counselling to assist teachers in coping
  • Implement safe schools policies and programmes including clear statements that violence will not be tolerated, and
  • Recognise and assess serious student behaviour issues; intervene, monitor and evaluate

Handbook of good human resources practices in the teaching profession, ILO, Geneva 2012