Civil Service Unions Demand Inquiry into MoD Sexual Harassment

Civil Service Unions Demand Inquiry into MoD Sexual Harassment
credit: theguardian

London (Parliament News) – Three civil service trade unions have called for an independent investigation into sexual harassment in the Ministry of Defence, citing the need for a safer workplace for female staff and insufficient action on past complaints.

Three civil service trade unions have penned to the Ministry of Defence to call for an independent investigation into sexual harassment of women in the defence sector, stating it needs to make its workplace safe for female staff.

Why are civil service trade unions calling for an investigation?

The unions, led by Prospect, and joined by academics and women’s rights campaigners, expressed not enough had been accomplished to address the problem since about 60 senior females at the MoD wrote to the department last year to allege sexual attack, harassment and abuse by male colleagues.

Sue Ferns, the senior deputy general secretary of Prospect, stated successive revelations showed “sexual harassment not only routinely happens but is actually tolerated” at the MoD.

“It is plain to me that left on its own, the MoD is not going to take the necessary steps to stamp this out. This is why we are calling for an independent inquiry into sexual harassment in the MoD, where the department is compelled to heed its recommendations to make its workplaces safe for women.”

Her call was backed by three general secretaries: Dave Penman of the FDA, which represents senior civil servants; Fran Heathcote of the PCS, the largest civil service trade union; and Paul Nowak of the Trades Union Congress.

What are the unions’ concerns regarding workplace safety?

In the joint letter, they stated: “The revelations in recent months about sexual harassment in the Ministry of Defence are both appalling and depressing. That so many victims, the extensive majority of whom are women, have faced this behaviour is a stain on the reputation of the government.

“Unfortunately, whilst they are shocking they are not surprising. For too long this type of behaviour has been excused as harmless ‘banter’ rather than recognised as representative of a poisonous culture and exploitative power dynamics. There have been reports of this type of harassment for over 20 years, but still, it has not been thoroughly addressed.”

They expressed it was “high time that there is a comprehensive and autonomous inquiry into sexual harassment in defence that attends to victims and makes binding recommendations for action by the MoD”.

The problem has gained appeal since 60 women within the MoD, first noted by the Guardian in November, gave accounts that included suits women had been propositioned, groped and touched often by male coworkers in a workplace culture the civil servants expressed was “hostile to women as similar and respected partners”.

Since then, more women have come along to Prospect and other unions, including one MoD civil servant who spoke of being subjected to three separate happenings of sexual assault by male colleagues. More recently, a woman in the navy said sexual harassment she was subjected to was dismissed as “banter”. A survey of Prospect members in the defence sector more generally showed about 60% had experienced or witnessed sexual harassment at work.

How has the Ministry of Defence responded to the allegations?

At the time of the original note from 60 MoD women, a department spokesperson expressed: “No woman should be made to feel unsafe in the Ministry of Defence and this conduct is not tolerated. We are dedicated to stamping this out and we continue to inspire anyone who has experienced or noticed this kind of indefensible behaviour to report it immediately.”

The Ministry of Defence expressed the department had launched a review of its objections procedure. A spokesperson stated: “Sexual harassment is completely inappropriate, and we are committed to stamping it out wherever it is discovered. We encourage anyone who has undergone or witnessed this kind of inexcusable behaviour to report it immediately. As part of our plan to manage instances of unacceptable behaviour, we undertook a review of our complaints procedure in talk with external bodies, including trade unions who are able to input.”

Daniele Naddei

Daniele Naddei is a journalist at Parliament News covering European affairs, was born in Naples on April 8, 1991. He also serves as the Director of the CentroSud24 newspaper. During the period from 2010 to 2013, Naddei completed an internship at the esteemed local radio station Radio Club 91. Subsequently, he became the author of a weekly magazine published by the Italian Volleyball Federation of Campania (FIPAV Campania), which led to his registration in the professional order of Journalists of Campania in early 2014, listed under publicists. From 2013 to 2018, he worked as a freelance photojournalist and cameraman for external services for Rai and various local entities, including TeleCapri, CapriEvent, and TLA. Additionally, between 2014 and 2017, Naddei collaborated full-time with various newspapers in Campania, both in print and online. During this period, he also resumed his role as Editor-in-Chief at Radio Club 91.
Naddei is actively involved as a press officer for several companies and is responsible for editing cultural and social events in the city through his association with the Medea Fattoria Sociale. This experience continued until 2021. Throughout these years, he hosted or collaborated on football sports programs for various local broadcasters, including TLA, TvLuna, TeleCapri, Radio Stonata, Radio Amore, and Radio Antenna Uno.
From 2016 to 2018, Naddei was employed as an editor at newspapers of national interest within the circuit, including Internazionale24, Salute24, and OggiScuola. Since 2019, Naddei has been one of the creators of the Rabona television program "Calcio è Passione," which has been broadcast on TeleCapri Sport since 2023.