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Young workers back anti-bullying campaign

The NUJ's Alex McDonald with FEU delegates at the TUC Young Workers' conference

FEU delegates at a TUC fringe meeting on the anti-bullying campaign  -  © NUJ

24 March 2014

There was standing room only at a Federation of Entertainment Unions fringe meeting on combating bullying at the TUC Young Workers' 2014 conference.

The NUJ's Alex McDonald joined delegates from Equity, the Musicians' Union (MU) and BECTU to promote the Federation of Entertainment Unions (FEU) Creating without Conflict campaign, which aims to challenge bullying in the workplace and give union reps the tools to help members who have been bullied, harassed or discriminated against.

A motion calling for the TUC to back the campaign and "secure a cross-union culture of workplace respect and stamp out bullying in all our industries" was unanimously backed by the Young Workers' conference. The motion also called for unions to make sure that freelance and casual workers are included in company anti-bullying policies. It said: "There is a preconception that the creative industries are glamorous and exciting places to work. The reality is that most workers are freelance, or on short-term contracts, with few statutory rights and little job security."

The FEU has published a report, based on a survey of 4,000 members, which identified creative workplaces as hotspots for bullying. More than half of those questioned (56%) said they had been bullied, harassed or discriminated against at work.

Introducing the session, Emily Stewart of the MU, said that one of the stand-out statistics was that more than half of the 16 to 30 year olds surveyed said age was a significant factor in the bullying they experienced. She pointed out the survey discovered that managers were the main perpetrators of bullying, but it was also common that colleagues bullied each other.

Alex McDonald said the NUJ had uncovered shocking levels of bullying in the media industry when it gathered witness statements from members during the Leveson Inquiry, into the culture and ethics of the press, and the BBC's Rose Review, which looked at harassment at the corporation following the Jimmy Savile scandal.

He said:

"The FEU report discovered there was a culture of silence. Fewer than one-third of people experiencing ill-treatment disclosed it. One reason for this was because people who were freelance were concerned about making a fuss in case they did not get any more work and also there appeared to be a broad acceptance that bullying is part of the creative workplace culture."

Nico Lennon, an actor, said it was a problem in the acting and entertainment's world – people were afraid that if they complained about bullying behaviour, they would be seen as troublemakers and would find it hard to get further work.

Emily Collin, a BECTU delegate, said it was the job of unions to challenge bullying in the workplace and to ensure that casual and freelance workers have somebody to represent them if they are bullied, harassed or discriminated against.

The discussion was then opened to the meeting which included delegates representing a wide number of unions and workplaces. They agreed that it was often difficult to speak up if you were new in a job or one of the youngest workers.

The FEU has issued a set of guidelines for staff and guidelines for freelances.

The FEU is working with employers in the media and entertainment industries to adopt a common code of conduct.

Tags: , bullying, harassment, discrimination, creating without conflict, FEU, TUC, TUC Young Workers' Conference, campaign, broadcasting, freelance