Make Parliamentary staff safety a priority

As sexual misconduct and harassment scandals engulf Tory Party, Unite calls for action to protect Parliamentary staff

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Unite, which represents more than 300 Parliamentary staff, has called on political parties to make staff protection from sexual harassment and misconduct a top priority.

The call comes amid the latest sexual misconduct scandal to rock Parliament, after it was revealed that former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher, who was since resigned, had groped two men at a private members’ club in London.

It has now come to light that prime minister Boris Johnson had known about the allegations against Pincher, but had promoted him in February to deputy chief whip – a role that includes overseeing the welfare of colleagues – anyway.

The Pincher affair is the latest in a long line of such scandals engulfing the Tory party, with multiple Tory MPs having faced allegations of sexual misconduct, assault and even rape. Many of those taken to court have been found guilty. In one instance in 2020, Tory MP Rob Roberts was found by an independent investigation to have sexually harassed a staff member.

As media attention has largely focused on what the Pincher scandal will mean for the future of prime minister Boris Johnson, Unite has said that the safety of parliamentary staff in the workplace must become a priority.

Unite has said that action must be taken to protect staff, including by taking a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct. This is especially important given that many Parliamentary staff are young people.

Commenting, Unite Parliamentary Staff branch chair Max Freedman said, “Many MPs’ staff are young and Parliament is their first experience of the workplace. MPs’ offices are very small teams and run in widely differing ways, with some being less professional and boundaries being crossed. For young staff who have not known what normal expectations should be, there is a huge power imbalance with their boss even if they were not a powerful political figure.

“Parliament has come a long way in supporting staff, but this basic vulnerability to inappropriate or bullying behaviour remains,” Freedman added. “We must also rely on those at the top of the political parties to make staff and visitor safety a priority: overlooking allegations of sexual misconduct and putting such individuals in senior Whip positions that enforce behaviour in Parliament is not acceptable.”

By Hajera Blagg

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