Glasgow Bectu rep spreads word on Dignity at Work

6 February 2020

Bectu rep Eilis O’Keefe, who lives and works in Glasgow as a team member at Cineworld, raised awareness of Bectu’s Dignity at Work campaign at an event in January about tackling sexual harassment at work.

Union reps and advisers were invited to the launch of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s new technical guidance on tackling sexual harassment. It was co-hosted by the Scottish TUC in partnership with the EHRC, Scottish Women’s Rights Centre and Betterthanzero.

The new EHRC guidance sets out employers’ legal responsibilities and the practical steps they should take to prevent and act on the issue in the workplace.

It also provides information for workers to help them understand their rights and their employer’s obligation to prevent harassment and victimisation, as well as information on how complaints should be dealt with.

In partnership with BetterThanZero, Eilis was invited to speak alongside a representative from USDAW union.

Sexual harassment and unions

Eilis says: “Our main objective was to consider sexual harassment from a trade union perspective and to provide some background information on what grassroots activists are doing to build collective power to tackle the issue.

“An example of this activism is BetterThanZero’s Cat Calling it Out campaign, which I helped to launch alongside other trade union activists and organisers last year.

“The campaign has taken direct action around Glasgow, with activists speaking to workers to raise awareness and provide support to collectivise against sexual harassment and victimisation at work.

“I put emphasis on the fact that sexual harassment is not a women’s only issue, and that it is an issue at the core of our fight for workers’ rights and a threat to equal opportunities in the workplace across all industries.”

Eilis also shared her own experience of sexual harassment in the workplace and highlighted some of the harrowing statistics from TUC research, as well as statistics and information from Bectu/Prospect’s Dignity at Work campaign.

Bectu findings

Bectu’s survey of people in the creative industries revealed that far from being isolated incidents around half of all respondents had experienced or witnessed harassment on more than one occasion.

Examples included:

  • More than half (51%) of women and a quarter (28%) of men have experienced or witnessed bullying, harassment or unwanted behaviour on grounds of sex.
  • Workers are exposed to sexual harassment, sexual remarks and sexist behaviour more than any other kind of inappropriate behaviour.
  • More than half (58%) of respondents have experienced or witnessed “jokes” of a sexual nature and 50% have experienced or witnessed comments of a sexual nature.

Bectu’s survey revealed that fear of repercussion and a lack of trust in managers are major barriers to speaking out, with 43% saying they wouldn’t trust managers to deal with an issue and 42% saying they would be concerned about the impact on their career.

Eilis welcomes the Dignity at Work campaign and says: “Research shows that where victims of sexual harassment have reported the problem to a trade union representative, they have a more positive outcome

“That’s why I welcome the Dignity at Work campaign and urge people in the creative industries to join Bectu and spread the word on our work in this area.”