The UWU stands in solidarity with all those affected by the publication of the TSSA Independent Inquiry by Baroness Helena Kennedy KC into sexual harassment and bullying. Many UWU members will be affected by this report. Not only those who work (or have worked) for the TSSA union but also many women workers and members in the movement who recognise many of the issues dealt with in this report.
For too long, trade union workers, lay officers and members have been denied the basic right to be treated with dignity and respect at work and in their union. Often, UWU members report that they are told to stop moaning, to feel lucky to work for the movement and put up with being marginalised for speaking out.
Whilst we welcome the Kennedy report and the recommendations, we are reminded that if it wasn’t for the testimony of Claire Laycock and other brave sisters, this report would not have taken place and we would still have someone “who becomes disinhibited by alcohol and then behaves inappropriately towards women” at the head of a major trade union. We salute the #meTU campaign for continuing to argue for concrete demands to deal with this and supporting sisters to come forward.
We have to demand better from those leading our trade unions. Old fashioned, misogynistic attitudes towards women should be a red flag for everyone. How can we defeat the bosses and austerity if our own leaders are divorced from reality and living in a bureaucratic power bubble?
We hope that off the back of this report, we will start to see more women come forward to expose and challenge this rotten culture but this needs to be a safe space where their legitimate concerns are listened to, acted on and with no repercussions. The UWU intends to create a space for our members for this very purpose and to build a collective response.
This is the third report to come out about the toxic culture existing in our trade unions. We shouldn’t have to wait any longer for action across the movement to hold itself to high standards that we rightly expect. We urgently call on the TUC General Secretary, Paul Nowak to show leadership and take action to tackle the ignorance and denial from many at the top about the scale of the problem.
UWU is calling an emergency meeting on 23 February, 18.00-19.00 to discuss the contents of the report and to agree a model motion based on members feedback and experiences. In order to maintain a safe space, this meeting will be open to women, non-binary and trans members.
In addition, we are offering smaller, confidential meetings with our UWU president and a representative from the #meTU campaign. Please email Tracy Edwards to arrange.
Reports are welcome first steps but it’s action that’s needed. We hear from our members that months and years later employers still aren’t ‘getting their house in order’. Change for the better should not have to rely on brave sisters coming forward in extreme circumstances.
Sexual harassment and abuse is rife in our society and should not be reflected in the workers’ movement.