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Michelle Stanistreet calls for safer media workplaces

11 October 2012

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, has condemned sexism and harassment at work and urged the government and media employers to acknowledge and address the problems that exist in the media industry.

Plans announced at Conservative party conference this week include unraveling health and safety measures, attacks on trade union rights and the withdrawal of sections of the Equality Act relating to third party harassment.

The BBC has announced an independent inquiry into the Jimmy Savile allegations of sexual abuse. The NUJ supports the inquiry and is committed to working in partnership with union members and employers to challenge sexism and harassment and prioritise the campaign for safer working environments.

Michelle Stanistreet said:

“Sexism and sexual harassment is totally unacceptable and the NUJ is united and determined to challenge it. We are calling for media employers, trade unions and journalists to work together to ensure that women are safe at work.
"We want to see measures put in place to protect victims and we want procedures to be introduced to effectively tackle the harmful and damaging behaviour of the perpetrators.
"Our women members have come forward to describe instances of sexism and harassment to us and it is clear that media organisations are not always willing to acknowledge or prevent sexism and harassment at work.
"One of the most recent examples is the sexually-based abuse targeted at women journalists on the internet and the lack of measures introduced to protect staff from harm. The last thing abused women need is the offer of shares in return for giving up their employment rights.
"Supporting a strong and representative trade union can help to address the problems and the NUJ will continue to work hard to convince the government and employers of the need for equality policies aimed to challenge unhealthy cultures and practices at work."

The NUJ launched a survey in spring 2012 to gather views and experiences about sexism and below are quotes taken from the survey responses. The survey results and analysis will be published later this year.

"I am in no doubt that women's status at work is at an all-time low... men secure the full-time, highly paid jobs and women have the part-time and casual work"
"Recently three senior women have been made redundant leaving mostly men at the top."
"I feel there is a bit of an old boys' club ... jobs are not advertised and senior management regularly give contracts to journalists with a professional or personal connection to them. Nine times out of ten, these new contracts are given to male journalists."
"I suspected the reason I was overlooked [for the job] was because I was a woman, where there had been a very ambitious, alpha male in the role before."
" career went swimmingly well until I had children. My previous reputation and good record and achievements seemed to be wiped out during my maternity leave... I got no credit for the things I had done, and upon my return I had to build my reputation again. I was also repeatedly turned down for flexible working... a final request for flexible working was met with the offer of a much lower paid three-day a week temporary position covering someone else's maternity leave... there seemed to be an unofficial rule to have no part-timers in key positions."
"When I started out as a junior reporter in magazines, I was sacked because I very definitely refused the creepy ad director's interest in me. I then found it difficult to get other work... when I did, people either treated me as a 'sweet little thing' that made tea and was pleasant to everyone or if I did well and was complimented, colleagues thought it was just because I was a woman and must have slept with someone. I was not treated seriously."
"...the worst possible example... where a new boss's seniority (and the night shift element of working hours) was abused. In retrospect I was particularly foolish - I wasn't the only female reporter to meet him for 'a little chat about work' after hours in a nearby pub, we regularly held our forward planning and post mortem meetings in the same venue... but I was the last, non-driving, female reporter to be dropped off at home by him and felt emotionally blackmailed into letting him come into my apartment for a coffee as he pointed out he faced a long journey home. What happened made me leave the company. He covered his tracks. The one colleague I told didn't believe me."

If you have been subjected to sexism or sexual harassment at work, then please contact your local NUJ representative. To be able to launch a legal challenge, the harassment must have taken place within the last 6 months.

If you do not know your local union representative then please contact the NUJ Equality Officer Lena Calvert,

For more information about harassment at work, visit the Health and Safety Executive website.

Tags: sexism, women, health and safety, BBC, equality