This article was published in the Chinese University Staff Association Newsletter June edition 2010
In 20 years of association with CUSA, I've come across many cases of staff grievances that had approached us for help. The cases range from perceived unfair treatment, wrongful accusation of misdeeds, trumped-up charges for dismissal , unfair workload distribution, excessive overtime, unreasonable demands from Superior, biased performance review to blatant office bullying and verbal abuse.
I stop being amazed by how these things can still happen in a workplace of today's Hong Kong, when I realize more often than not the perpetrators actually can get away with impunity!
The impression that in any dispute between the management and staff the Administration and management would pull rank to protect its own is precisely what led to the deep distrust between the University Administration and the mere masses.
It is not inconceivable many more cases never came to light because of fear of reprisal which makes their life unbearable, or losing their job. Many attribute the seemingly black-box management style of CU to be responsible for this plethoric unhappiness, which I cannot argue, particularly as one peruses the eventual outcome of many of these cases.
The fact that not a single one of the masses , not even someone who has worked in CU for 20 years, has an inkling of what goes on behind the closed door of Administration is one reason why CUSA has fought relentlessly and tirelessly for a seat in the University Council all these years.
To pick a random case, a contract was not renewed because the staff, inspite of good performance reviews, was accused by the then director to have done " bad things " . His second crime which he was reprimanded for was coming to the union for advice, which incidentally is the basic right of every worker in HK under the HK Labour Law.
The fact that there was a mass exodus and rapid staff change-over in the department at the time, which would have alerted mere mortals like you and me that there might be something amiss in the management, was ignored by the University Administration and the staff was given the boot .
Wanting to clear his name the staff saw the new director who was effusive with sympathetic noises and promised him " compensation" for having been treated shabbily, but which of course came up empty .
Eleven months after the staff left he finally obtained a copy of his confidential personal file from the Personnel Office , but there was no entry pertaining to exactly what his misdeed was . A single word "Misbehaviour" was deemed enough to ruin a man's career .
This is not to say there're no loafers on the CU staff , but I would not have stayed in any association that champions slackness , so it's lucky for me that by and large staff who are lazy, sneaky and devious know well enough to seek help elsewhere.
COULD YOU BE MADE TO WASH THE TOILET ? This question is not as rhetorical as you might think : already in CUHK clerks are made to wash dirty glasses and technicians to take out the garbage.
The logistics put forth by the Administration to support such practices is that any request the director makes on the staff in the course of running a department must unquestionably be legitimate, any query from the staff would therefore automatically be viewed as insubordination , not to mention inevitably invite a very real threat of a bad PRDS.
This Administrative doctrine makes the qualification and training requirement of staff employed to do a specific job a joke, and it'd be interesting to find out what an Audit Department would say about the improper use of human resources .
As the budget cut in the coming few years and 334 coincide with the exorbitant extra- expenditure incurred by the addition of 5 new colleges by the soon to be ex-VC to our incumbent 4 , such wandon allocation of duties in order to cut cost is highly likely to escalate in many more departments .
The fact that the incoming VC , who has repeatedly enthused in all the meetings he held with the stake- holders in CU and all the press interviews, that his first priority consideration when he comes on board is with the students , followed by the teaching staff, has not exactly calmed the jitteries of the non-teaching staff .
While it is laudible that after years of negotiation with CUSA and CUTA in the JCC, CU has now set up a Grievance Procedures for University Employee , but it's early days yet and we're still waiting to see how things will pent out .
As representative of the non-teaching staff, CUSA is willing to give the new VC the benefit of the doubt, and with bated breath we look forward to a bright new era of communication and co-operation between the Adminstration and our staff .
Hopefully then it’d no longer feel like I'm just talking to myself.