Investigation into Complaint

Ulster Flying Club Committee Response

We confirm that regrettably a Flying Instructor had cause to raise a complaint in which they alleged bullying and unfair treatment against him by others. In their complaint they cited a number of examples to demonstrate.

In order to ensure a full, thorough and independent investigation was carried out the Ulster Flying Club engaged the services of an external HR company, Happy Raspberry Ltd and the investigation was conducted by Mrs Gillian McDowell, FCIPD, HR Director, Happy Raspberry Ltd and Mrs Janet Little, MCIPD, HR Consultant, Happy Raspberry Ltd.

The purpose of the investigation was to investigate the unfair treatment and bullying complaint to liaise with the parties concerned and based on evidence gathered determine whether or not to uphold Mr Wagner’s complaint.

The investigation was managed by applying the practice and principles in the Labour Relations Agency, Code of Practice, Grievance Procedure.

Happy Raspberry Ltd was required to provide a written evidence based report, including an outline of the key facts setting out the investigation findings and conclusions, based on the balance of probabilities and to make relevant recommendations in relation to the complaint.

In the context of the two areas, bullying and unfair treatment Happy Raspberry also kept to the fore of the investigation the following definitions:

1. Bullying can be defined as “persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress. Bullying is an abuse of power and is largely defined not by intention but by the impact of the behaviour on the recipient. It often involves a person in authority abusing their position and bullying their subordinates. However, an individual may also bully a peer, and groups of people may pick on and bully an individual.

2. In general, unfair treatment can be defined as “Unfair treatment can mean a number of things. It could involve a staff member having their work undermined even though they are competent at their job. A manager could take a dislike to a particular employee and make their life difficult, unfairly criticising their work or setting them menial tasks. Jul 15, 2019

Reference: www.breathehr.com/blog/unfair-treatment-at-work-what-can-employers-do

ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation, and Arbitration Service) states according to the law, there are different types of unfair treatment. 

Discrimination is one type of unfair treatment and can, for example, be direct or indirect. Other types of unfair treatment include bullying.

Direct discrimination happens when a person, or a group of people, is treated less favourably than another person or group because of their background or certain personal characteristics.

Indirect discrimination is a discrete type of discrimination that involves a policy, rule or procedure that is applied to everyone in a certain area but, ultimately, puts some individuals or groups at a disadvantage.

The investigation has now been completed and the Club has received the report. The complainant along with the respondents have been notified of the outcome. The Club is examining carefully the recommendations made and if there is any further communication as an outcome(s) from the investigation you will all be notified of what these are and how they impact on the Club and/or your role and responsibilities to the Club.

However central to this complaint and concerning for the Club was the action taken by the Head of Training. He without consultation with the Committee took the decision to suspend Mr Wagner from the role of Duty Flying Instructor in his words:

“With immediate effect, your privileges to act as Duty QFI in charge of the airfield are revoked until such times as my confidence returns in your ability to conduct these duties.”

The Head of Training claimed he had not been provided with the role and responsibilities for this position by the Committee. However, he provided Happy Raspberry with a copy of the roles and responsibilities (Requirements and Guidance for DTO Submission Cap 1637 September 2018) for the Head of Training. He told Happy Raspberry that he worked to this document. Nowhere in the document did it refer to the authority to take the decision he took to suspend Mr Wagner as a Duty Flying Instructor. Happy Raspberry was not provided with any other information that clarified his responsibility to make such a decision.

The Club is aware that there has been a great deal of talk and speculation around this complaint which has had a detrimental impact on a number of working relationships and has put some people in very difficult situations which is not acceptable. The Club employs staff who are competent to carry out their roles and professionally qualified instructors to provide the range of aviation services. The Club will not tolerate behaviours that are deemed to be unacceptable to others nor will the Club accept perceptions of some that sets them apart from others on a professional level.

You will be aware the Club was founded in 1961 and has grown to become one of the largest flying organisations in Ireland, providing a range of aviation services, from trial flying lessons to PPL training, night ratings to IMC all provided in a friendly and welcoming environment. The Club is extremely proud of a history were collectively we have worked together to provide these services and we now need to move forward to continue to do so.

Terry Bunce

On behalf of the Committee of the Ulster Flying Club