DM 2014: National campaign against stress at work
11 April 2014
Delegates at the NUJ conference in Eastbourne decided to hold a national meeting of chapel representatives to plan a campaign highlighting the dangers of excessive workloads and stress across the media industries.
Speakers told how long hours, continuous intensive working, excessive workloads and sky high stress levels have become endemic in the industry following years of intensive cost-cutting and job cuts.
The union's national executive council was instructed to develop a campaign highlighting mental health issues at the workplace, and to prepare a 'stress busting' programme to be presented to employers as a matter of urgency.
Conference also passed a related motion about bullying in the media. Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary, recounted the 'eyewatering' accounts of bullying of NUJ members she encountered when investigating the issue.
"The stories shared with me were eye watering – literally. One call was from a woman too scared to give me even her first name, who sobbed as she told me that, apart from the counsellor she’d been referred to after sharing with her GP her suicidal feelings, she'd never spoken to a single person about how awful her life was being made at work. The sole breadwinner caring for her elderly parents, she felt the risk of losing her job was too great if she brought a complaint.
"I pleaded with her to let me help, she said the thought paralysed her with fear, she even apologized to me, as if she was weak, letting me down. I came off the call and cried, in disbelief and anger that someone could be made to feel so worthless in a workplace we all, as licence fee payers, have a stake in.
"I took evidence of harassment from individuals bullied because of their age, their race, because they are disabled, because they are gay. Members shared experiences of shocking sexism, of sexual harassment. Many individuals had suffered ill health and relationship problems because of the bullying. Some told me that they had even considered killing themselves, just to make it all stop."