Delegates at Local Government Conference heard harrowing accounts of bullying at work from a range of members and activists and backed a complete zero tolerance on bullying and harassment and actions to eradicate it.
Building on the work of Scotland young members in their “Gonnae no dae that” campaign, the National Young Members Forum had conducted their own survey and found high levels of bullying, some of it requiring medical treatment. And this is not confined to young workers – women, Black, disabled and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members are also disproportionately likely to experience bullying and harassment at work.
Supporting the motion on behalf of the Service Group Executive, Scotland’s Alison MacCorquodale told delegates that unfortunately, bullying and harassment is rife across the local government sector.
Alison said, “Bullying can take many forms – from the blatant to the subtle. It includes unacceptable verbal remarks, cyber-bullying, undermining, excluding or humiliating or indeed my own personal favourite… being told to shut up and not to make a fuss, because ‘You’re lucky to have a job’ – The threat that you may be sacked.”
She added that worryingly, in a recent UNISON survey, 70% of safety reps said that bullying and harassment was one of their top five hazards of concern at work.
“This is not acceptable,” slammed Alison. “Remember, we all have a legal right to a safe working environment.”
She pledged SGE support to branches to tackle this important issue and reminded delegates of the UNISON guides on bullying and harassment.
“We must force our employers’ hand on this matter,” urged Alison. “They must have clear policies on how they will tackle bullying and harassment.
“Managers must be made aware that they have a responsibility – and must work with us – trade union activists – to stamp out bullying once and for all.
“We don’t tolerate bullying in the playground, and we shouldn’t stand for it at work.”
Scotland’s Kathleen Kennedy spoke as National Disabled members’ rep and brought a focus on the bullying experienced by disabled members.
“Disabled Members are often seen as easy targets for bullies,” said Kathleen, adding “Disabled Members don’t always realise when they are being bullied which makes us vulnerable if people want to take advantage of us.”
She pointed out that things can be made worse because disabled members are sometimes frightened complain because they think it might make things worse.
“This fear is often based on their experiences at school or in the workplace when they reported bullying but were not believed or taken seriously,” Kathleen warned.
She called for guidance to include information so all stewards and activists know how to support disabled members who may need more help than non-disabled members.