According to a report leaked to the Guardian last week, over half of Unite the Union’s 74 female officials have been bullied or sexually harassed by fellow officials or by union members.
One example of the kind of behaviour complained of was: “I have to sit among colleagues who refer to our secretaries as the girls … [They] think it is correct to refer to black people as coloured, talk about chairmen, and refer to women as a piece of skirt.”
Some of the worst examples in the 39-page report, entitled “Women Officers in Unite”, related to the treatment of women officers by individual members and workplace reps. One officer was told in a meeting that she needed “a good f***”.
The report also found that around a quarter of Unite officials did not believe that allegations of bullying were properly handled by Unite. 40% thought that raising concerns about such harassment would be seen as a sign of weakness.
The report was compiled between February and May of this year. Over four months later, no action has yet been taken in response to its findings.
The report was leaked only days after an Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) delivered its judgement in legal proceedings by a female former official who had claimed constructive unfair dismissal.
The EAT confirmed that Unite had failed to investigate her complaints of sexual harassment by workplace reps properly, had failed to discipline the perpetrators, and had then sought to transfer the official to another post rather than confront the problem.
Unite has a “Strategy for Equality” and a range of other publications about promoting equality in the workplace. They are some of the best publications Unite has produced.
But they count for nothing if Unite, as an employer, is unable to put their principles into practice.
First and foremost, this means protecting its own employees from harassment by other employees and by individual union members and reps.