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NUJ joins unions' campaign against bullying in the workplace

2 May 2013

The Federation of Entertainment Unions has launched a campaign to expose bullying in the workplace. This follows confirmation from the BBC that it will be overhauling its bullying and harassment policy in conjunction with the unions, following the Respect at Work Review.

The review, by Dinah Rose QC, uncovered a culture where inappropriate behaviour had gone unchallenged at the BBC, where junior staff felt too scared to complain and where staff had no confidence that HR would act fairly and independently. Evidence by the NUJ and BECTU was included in the report.

The entertainments and media industries are highly competitive industries. They are seen as "glamorous"; and managers take advantage of this. There are always others who can take your place if you complain.

There is also a prevalence of unpaid internships, which can put young people in a vulnerable position. Many workers are self-employed, working on contracts and shifts and are denied the protection that being on staff can afford. Those working on fixed-term contracts are terrified to report bullying because they fear they will not keep their jobs.

A survey carried out this year by BECTU showed that more than one in five (22.5 per cent) of its members said that bullying was a major concern. A motion passed by Equity annual conference last year said:

"Bullying contaminates professional working relationships and the failure to address it harms individuals, workplace teams and the reputation of the arts and entertainment sector."

Bernie Corbett, Writers' Guild GB general secretary, said:

"We know screenwriters who have been threatened physically and verbally and whose lives have been made hell because of the 'Do exactly what I say or I'll make sure you never work in this industry again' type of incompetent production management."

In the NUJ's evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics, Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, compiled from personal interviews with journalists a shocking catalogue of bullying and abuse in the newspaper industry. She said:

"Those who have experienced or witnessed bullying of a vicious and engrained nature have largely been too fearful to speak out in case they lost their job or were forced out."

The campaign will be:

  • Surveying workers in the media and entertainments industries.
  • Gathering case studies.
  • Increasing awareness of bullying, anti-bullying policies and good practice.
  • Providing advice for union reps.

The campaign will bring together its findings at a conference in London in November.

The Federation of Entertainment Unions comprises: BECTU, the broadcasting union; Equity; Musicians' Union; National Union of Journalists; Professional Footballers' Association; Writers' Guild GB and Unite.

Related news:

NUJ welcomes report calling for action to tackle BBC bullying culture (2 May 2013)

Tags: BBC, Broadcasting, bullying, FEU