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TUC women's conference backs NUJ motion on bullying

17 March 2014

Delegates at the TUC's women's conference unanimously supported an NUJ motion which called for a union-wide campaign to combat bullying and harassment.

Debbie Cavalaldoro moved the motion on behalf of the NUJ and emphasised the need for bullying to be specifically defined in legislation – either in health and safety legislation or the Equality Act.

She spoke about the huge amount of bullying that occurs in the media and said the NUJ’s campaigning on this issue had been vindicated by inquiries such Dinah Rose QC's review, which found bullying and harassment endemic at the BBC. A survey by the Federation of Entertainment Unions (FEU) had shown that the media and entertainment industries were a "hotspot" for bullying, harassment and discrimination.

The survey found that eight out of 10 women (81 per cent who reported bullying, harassment and discrimination said their gender was a factor. The respondents reported incidents from lewd comments to sexual assault and commented on pressure from superiors to enter sexual relationships and unnecessary scripted nudity.

Women said they had to develop strategies to avoid sexual harassment as their career progressed, but then found they were discriminated against because of age and were viewed as beyond their shelf-life. One in ten respondents in theatre, television and film witnessed sexually-related harassment.   

Debbie said that bullying destroyed careers and lives. The motion was seconded by the University of College Lecturers, whose delegate said that while researching the issue she had been shocked by the number of reports of suicides which had referred to bullying as a reasons or one of the reasons for the person taking their own life.

The motion was supported by other unions, all of whom felt that bullying was a problem in their own areas. All of the delegates who spoke cited bullying based on gender, mainly male to female, as a problem in their areas.
It  was passed unanimously.

Lena Calvert, NUJ Equality Officer, seconded a composite motion on sexualisation of women and girls in the media and entertainment profession moved by Equity. She said that it was about time some parts of the media stopped presenting women as sexual objects and reported instead on their achievements in public life. Too many newspapers in the last election had totally ignored women politicians, but concentrated on the fashion choices of politician’s female partners. 

She looked at the way some of the media had concentrated on Rebecca Adlington’s looks rather than her achievements as an Olympic gold medallist and said it was clear that this had affected the swimmer badly. Role models , such as Rebecca, were needed to encourage women and girls to maintain an interest in sport and the media could do much more to encourage young women to get active in politics and public life.  She said:

"It’s what women do that matters not what they look like."

The composite motion was passed unanimously.

The NUJ motion
This conference notes a 2013 survey of Federation of Entertainment Union members on bullying returned 4000 replies which showed 56 per cent of respondents had been bullied, harassed or discriminated against at work and 52 per cent had witnessed such behaviour.  64 per cent of women experienced ill treatment with 34 per cent  identifying gender or sexuality as a factor in their ill-treatment, reporting sexual harassment. The survey also showed that employers had a blatant disregard or ignorance of equality legislation concerning maternity and many women were bullied whilst pregnant.

This conference congratulates the FEU on the survey and holding a joint conference to discuss the findings and future campaign strategy.  This conference further welcomes the unions' decision to produce a joint statement on bullying from all the FEU unions involved and the commitment to raising the issue of bullying and harassment in all employer and union forums and asking media/entertainment employers to commit to signing the joint statement.

The Federation of Entertainments Unions campaign, Creating without Conflict, has produced a set of guidelines on what to do about bullying and a code of practice to be agreed with employers or used as part of a house agreement.

Creating without Conflict campaign to combat bullying, harassment and discrimination

Code of conduct

Guidelines for staff members

Guidelines for freelances

Creating without Conflict report and survey findings

See other resources for reps on the membership area of the website

Tags: , TUC, FEU, bullying, discrimination, harassment, equality, women's rights, tuc women's conference