'Zero tolerance of sexual harassment - end of'

Unite delegate Stéf Kasprowski moves motion on zero tolerance of sexual harassment in the workplace

Reading time: 4 min

Unite delegate Stéf Kasprowski gave a stirring speech as she moved a motion on sexual harassment in the workplace at Unite policy conference on Thursday (July 13).

She began by highlighting the numbers of people who say they have experienced sexual harassment at work have increased dramatically to three in five women, and 7 out of 10 LGBT+ workers.

She called the figures “absolutely shocking” and that she was “lost for words”.

“And worst of all, 4 in 5 don’t report it because they fear of not being believed, or that it will damage their working relationships and career prospects,” she noted. “They can also be told that they are making a fuss over nothing. We’re not sorry — our dignity matters.”

Stéf went on to highlight the role that Unite can play “because if we release a new training programme so we are all clear on what is sexual harassment is, then we can be the change for our colleagues to feel safe and shown the respect they deserve while they are at work”.

“I wish for this training to also focus on banter, because banter and humour — if you can call that humour — on this matter, and in a lot of cases, trivialises and normalises behaviours that aren’t acceptable and, in a way, condones behaviours and perpetuates a culture that undermine people’s dignity.”

Stéf noted that sexual harassment can be an especially entrenched problem in male-dominated industries “because of a work culture that doesn’t allow women to thrive and also because of the lack of avenues to report it.”

However, she added that those workplaces aren’t the only places where people are subjected to those unacceptable behaviours.

“In the service industry or the hospitality sector for example, workers are subjected to it by customers who think it is part of the job,” she told conference. “Where is the manager to protect them? Some employees also work alone making them vulnerable to unwanted sexual conduct and finally the dreaded zero-hour contracts type jobs where you often have no other choice but to keep silent or risk losing your hours.”

Calling on conference to support the motion, she said that Unite must bring in draft policies on the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace as part of the Work Voice Pay tools and materials so reps can negotiate these with their employers.

“When we are at work, our employers have a duty of care and are supposed to put preventative measures in place to make sure we are safe,” she said. “But the current legislation isn’t enough because the numbers are seriously showing us that it is not working.

“We are asking for Unite to campaign for a new legislative preventative duty to be placed on employers to take action to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace,” Stéf continued.

“Let it be clear — it is never okay to subject anyone, because of their gender, sexual identity, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity or disability to unwanted sexual behaviour, whether it is verbal or physical.”

Stéf noted, “We call for zero tolerance to sexual harassment — end of.”

“Sexual harassment is a workplace issue, conference, and we’ve got to fight against it as we do for any other workplace issue,” she added, concluding, “I will now end on this — No always means No.”

The motion was unanimously carried.

By Hajera Blagg

Pic by Mark Thomas