Gemma Southgate

Wales TUC and Welsh Women’s Aid Sexual Harassment Toolkit Launch

Shavanah Taj Wales TUC General Secretary speaking at podium

By Gemma Southgate, Wales & Western Division Executive Committee member

On Wednesday 22nd March I attended the launch of the Wales TUC and Welsh Women’s Aid Sexual Harassment Toolkit in the historic Pierhead building, Cardiff Bay. I was keen to find how we in the Trade Union movement could be allies and advocates for change but also take the opportunity to look inwards at the movement and TSSA itself in light of the findings in the recently published Helena Kennedy and Hazel Conley reports.

Wales TUC worked closely with Welsh Women’s Aid to develop a toolkit that will give union reps the information they need to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace and stop it from happening.

This fantastic resource will give workers in Wales and all across the UK the information they need to tackle this problem in the workplace.

Sexual harassment is such a pervasive issue in workplaces that over one in two women in the UK have experienced it. This rises to nearly two in three women aged 18-24.

The toolkit

Launching the toolkit at the Pierhead building in Cardiff Bay, Shavanah Taj, Wales TUC General Secretary, said: “No one should go to work fearing they may be the victim of sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is part of a wider, relentless culture of sexual violence and misogyny. It is not a low-level act that should be accepted as an inevitable part of everyday life.

“We want to create an environment that allows workers to come forward and seek support, and to be believed and helped when they need it.

“We all have a role to play in tackling sexual harassment and we cannot be bystanders when it takes place. It is essential for us all to question behaviours that make women feel less safe at home, at school, in public and at work.

“Wales TUC and our affiliated trade unions are leading the way in this work. Unions, our reps and members are key to holding employers to account and making sure that bosses are doing everything they can to prevent sexual harassment.”

I was pleased to hear Shavanah Taj note that sexual harassment will be on every General Council meeting agenda in the future.

The Wales TUC sexual harassment toolkit includes information and support to help workers:

➔ Identify workplace sexual harassment

➔ Hold employers to account to prevent sexual harassment from happening in workplaces

➔ Campaign for a zero-tolerance approach to workplace sexual harassment through various preventative measures

Shavanah explained: “At a time when there seems to be an epidemic of sexual harassment in all its forms, this toolkit will help union reps support those at the sharp end of this abuse and bring perpetrators to justice.” She said the toolkit will help both employers and employees realise their obligations. And she put focus on union reps, saying they are key to holding workplaces to account and making sure that bosses are doing everything they can to prevent sexual harassment.

Harassment stats

Joyce Watson, Member of the Senedd for Labour, Mid and West Wales, sponsored the launch event and made an excellent point about the changing nature of sexual harassment and misogyny. She highlighted influencers such as Andrew Tate and his pernicious influence over the minds of many young men in society. We need to be vigilant about online harassment and challenge this.

Welsh Women’s Aid's 'No Grey Area' research found that four out of five women in Wales have experienced some form of sexual harassment at work. For the vast majority of these respondents, the harassment occurred on more than one occasion from more than one person.

Commenting on the research, Sara Kirkpatrick, CEO of Welsh Women’s Aid, said: “This signifies epidemic levels of misogyny and sexism being tolerated within workplaces. It is vital that we all commit to a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment and that employers are equipped to provide trauma-informed, person-centred responses to those employees who disclose to them, alongside implementing robust mechanisms for accountability.”

Sara highlighted that ableism and homophobic slurs are also experienced in tandem with harassment for minorities.

Rhianydd Williams, Wales TUC Equality Policy Officer urged those in the TU movement to contemplate and look inwards and to remember that their discomfort is never more important that those who face harassment.

Take action

I urge you to download the toolkit here and mobilise reps in your workplace to educate the membership about sexual harassment.

There are some tangible steps you can start to take immediately:

  • You can discuss the toolkit and sexual harassment at branch meetings or local reps meetings
  • Ask that Sexual Harassment in the workplace is a fixed agenda item on any company council meeting
  • Ask your employer to sign up to the White Ribbon Campaign
  • Request that your company provides mandatory sexual harassment training for staff.

For more steps to tackle workplace sexual harassment please download the TUC toolkit which is available bilingually in both English and Welsh.

I would like to thank all those involved in putting the Toolkit launch together and those who spoke at the event. I know the Toolkit will become a highly valuable guide for myself and reps across the TSSA and help to make the railway a safer place to work.

Sexual harassment is a collective bargaining issue and both employers and reps must take bold action to tackle it and not just make performative gestures.