Women's TUC set to tackle bullying and harassment

7 March 2018

The TUC’s annual Women’s Conference gets underway today and Prospect’s delegates from its BECTU sector will contribute to an important discussion on bullying and harassment in the creative industries.

BECTU will be reiterating its call for a ‘respect at work’ clause to be introduced into all employee and freelance contracts.

Liz Hardwick, chair of BECTU’s  Women’s Equality Committee said:

"The Committee has heard many examples, from members and their colleagues, of sexual harassment and other forms of harassment in our workplaces. We are sharing some of these examples at conference and the hardest thing has been choosing which to share in the short time we have on the podium, sadly there are so many. We stand together with other trade unions and other female trade unionists and activists in support of this motion, to make a difference to the lives of working women, freelancing and employed, in the entertainment industries and beyond."

The full text of the group (composited) motion is below.

Sexual harassment in the entertainment industries

Following on from revelations of sexual harassment and bullying within parliament, professional sports, the music industry and other industries this conference recognises the toxic culture that allows this to thrive. As long ago as 2013, the Federation of Entertainment Unions published a survey which identified entertainment workplaces as hotspots of discrimination, bullying, and harassment.  The competitive nature of the work, often seen as glamorous, and the large number of freelancers are a contributing factor, as is the unspoken acceptance that bullying is part of the creative process allowing ‘talent’ to behave in unacceptable ways. Examples have previously included adverts calling for attractive female violinists and inappropriate dress policies, as well as instances of sustained harassment in a place of employment. Women have long known that to speak out is to risk everything and have chosen to remain silent; it is much more difficult for women freelancers, and freelance women are vulnerable women. As a result of the recent surge of allegations, the MU has extended its services to female musicians, both members and non-members. As well as hosting a series of meetings aimed at providing advice to anyone affected, the MU has created an email address where musicians can report abuse and ask for assistance whilst remaining anonymous. We believe a pan-industry approach is necessary to promote a workplace culture which establishes zero tolerance of bullying and harassment in the working environment.

We call upon Conference to establish:

1. a joint plan of action that can be implemented across unions so that women will feel supported

2. an educational programme throughout unions to equip women and men to deal with this

3. a strategy to lobby employers to recognise their duty of care with regards to preventing bullying and harassment in the workplace

4. highlight the advice and assistance provided by the MU to all musicians suffering harassment or abuse

5. a ‘respect at work’ clause in all staff and freelance contracts, such a clause being designed to commit the parties to working to deliver respect at work for all.

Moved by Musicians Union, seconded by Prospect, supported by Equity

The motion comes just three weeks after the BFI published a new set of Principles and Guidance on bullying and harassment for the UK’s screen industries. Developed in partnership with BAFTA and supported by key industry organisations, including BECTU, the project looks to address bullying and harassment across film and TV.

Supporting the launch, Gerry Morrissey, head of BECTU said:

“If these Principles are adopted by industry this will be a step-change for our screen sectors, and the creative industries more broadly. We’re immensely proud of the work and the workforce but we also know that more time, commitment and leadership are needed to create a working environment which says no to bullying and harassment. We’re very encouraged by these Principles and the Guidance and we’ll be playing our part to ensure that they are understood and upheld.”

BECTU is working to incorporate these guidelines into the new TV Drama Agreement and into the Major Motion Picture Agreement which will be launched on 2 April. 

The TUC’s Women’s Conference runs from 7-9 March at Congress House in London.

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