Writers’ union rejects independent tribunal call

by Peter Urpeth

Photo Above: Olivia Hatreed © Robert Taylor 

The UK’s largest union for writers has rejected moves to establish an independent tribunal with enforcement powers to arbitrate in cases of sexual harassment in the TV and film industry.

Olivia Hetreed, President of The Writers Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) – which represents writers working with the BBC, ITV and the Royal Shakespeare Company – said:

“We feel that there is not the appetite to create those things – and there is a huge infrastructural problem in creating independent bodies. We don’t see the will to do that, or have the resources to do that.

“Because we are a union, we have to about how you could actually make this enforceable for employees. It’s lovely to have aspirations, but we deal very much with employers and it is about producing policies that companies apply to everybody.”

Edinburgh based Raising Films, which campaigns for equality and diversity in the screen industry, had published the plan in an open letter signed by more than 500 leading directors, producers and other senior figures working in TV and film.

The open letter also called for an in-depth, sector-wide independent investigation of abuse in the industry, the establishment of a support network for individuals going to court or tribunals in cases involving abuse or harassment, and for greater HR training.

A spokesperson for Raising Films said: “Victims of abuse or discrimination have no recourse to report unlawful behaviour without negative consequences to their careers.

“As a solution-led organisation, we were compelled to speak out about the need for robust systems that benefit all who have suffered, and continue to suffer, from systemic abuse.

“We call on industry leaders who have access to the mechanisms and budgets that can create change, to develop long-term, thorough-going solutions, including a review of employment regulations, to ensure that discrimination and harassment are eradicated from the industry.”

Read Raising Films’ Open Letter here

Olivia Hetreed commented:

“We have to do things that are actually going to work, and we are very focused on what we think will work for our members. We are not at all complacent that this isn’t a big problem. We are very glad that Raising Films and everybody else has raised this because it is something that we have been calling for action on for a very long time.

“Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that things have not changed very much, so from that point of view there did not seem much point in singing up to the letter, but we also felt that this was not the way that we would deal with the issues.”

WGGB conducted a survey in 2014, which found that 69% of respondents claimed to have been sexually harassed in their work.

Read WGGB’s response to bullying and harassment – Creating without Conflict  harassment –  here