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LETTERS: Unions must be at forefront of challenging harassment

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Issue 2579
TUC general secretary Frances OGrady
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady (Pic: Wikimedia Commons/Johninnit)

Revelations about the extent of sexist abuse in Hollywood and Parliament are shocking. But if you’re a woman worker in 2017, sexual harassment at work is rife.

A TUC report revealed that 52 percent of women—and nearly 63 percent of women aged between 18 and 24—said that they had experienced harassment at work.

And one in five women reported that it was their line manager or someone with direct authority over them.

Four out of five women did not report the harassment. They cited worries about their career prospects if they exposed the issue, embarrassment or feeling they wouldn’t be believed.

Worse still, only 1 percent reported anything to their trade union rep.

Sexual harassment is a serious workplace issue—and unions have a crucial role to play in making sure women workers are able to say what’s happening to them.

One of the things unions can do is to give stewards training.

Reps need to know how to support and represent members in cases of sexual harassment and how to challenge such behaviour in the workplace.

Importantly, unions need to ensure that employers have policies for preventing and dealing with this issue.

These may be part of a wider bullying and harassment or dignity at work policy. Whatever the case, it should be well publicised and reviewed regularly. There should be absolutely zero tolerance and clear methods of reporting.

All workers have the right to work in an environment free from discrimination or the fear of harassment.

The TUC report also shows that it’s younger women and those in precarious employment that suffer the most sexual harassment and report it less.

By organising and recruiting in these areas the unions will not only strengthen the movement but also give confidence to women to call this behaviour out.

Sharon Campion, Unison union, Birmingham (personal capacity)

Jews did not back Balfour

Socialist Worker is right that the Balfour Declaration wasn’t really about helping Jewish people (Socialist Worker, 28 October).

In 1917 leaders of the Jewish community in Britain actively opposed the signing of the declaration.

David Lindo Alexander was the president of the Jewish Board of Deputies, an organisation made up of representatives from every synagogue and Jewish charitable organisation in Britain.

And Claude Montefiore was President of the Anglo Jewish Association, which ran many Jewish schools.

They published a letter warning about “the establishment of a Jewish nationality in Palestine, founded on the theory of Jewish homelessness”.

It would “have the effect throughout the world of stamping the Jews as strangers in their native lands”. They feared that in a world awash with antisemitism a “Jewish homeland” would encourage antisemitism.They feared racists would say to the Jews, “Go to your own country”.

The Balfour Declaration was not sent to the leaders of the Jewish community who were opposed to the Zionist project. It was sent to Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, friend of the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann.

The declaration was not about helping the Jews, but rather about Britain staking a claim to a strategically important part of the Middle East.

Mark Krantz, Manchester

Trumps’ Russian revelations aren’t new

The news that Donald Trump’s camp worked with a foreign power to manipulate the presidential elections should anger but not shock us.

US politicians do it all the time in other countries.

Ken Burns and Lynne Novick’s Vietnam War documentary showed how Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon convinced the South Vietnamese president Nguyen Van Thieu to withdraw from peace talks.

Nixon thought holding off a ceasefire would help him to victory in 1968.

Nixon’s actions were just enough to win him the presidency while condemning Vietnam to another six years of horror and devastation.

In the 1980 presidential elections, the US hostage situation in Iran was dominating the campaign.

To prevent a success story for the incumbent Democrat James Carter, Republican candidate Ronald Reagan’s camp is thought to have convinced Iran to hold off the release.

The announcement came 20 minutes after Reagan’s inaugural speech.

Name provided, Stockport


Stay and fight to build rank and file strength

I read the article on the Durham teaching assistants’ (TAs) pay deal (Socialist Worker, 18 October).

It’s an unfortunate fact that union branches or negotiating bodies make deals that are not as good as what could be achieved.

This is largely through lack of confidence or right wing leaderships.

Being a union steward you can feel this is unfair.

But it’s just a setback and the struggle goes on. Rather than resign as a TAs’ union steward, Lisa should have gone back to members and argued the case against the deal.

Allowing you to identify those who agree with you about the deal opens the door to building a fighting force capable of challenging poor deals.

The members can gain the strength from looking for fellow fighters.

Robert Trahearn, Unite union member, Worcester

Compromise kills Labour

The pressure is going to be on Labour to tone things down and appeal more to the middle classes (Socialist Worker, 1 November).

That isn’t going to achieve anything.

People have been inspired by something that is different. Too much compromise will kill Labour’s chances.

Esme Richards, on Facebook

Your fight has inspired us

Britain has had six years without fracking.

And it’s definitely good to hear that there is some decent union involvement. It’s much needed inspiration for the fracking battle here in Australia.

Marlon Schloeffel, on Facebook

Will left back Catalans?

People have the right to self determination, regardless of all legal boundaries and traps put in place by their oppressors. Will the left groups respect the democratic view of the Catalan people?

Steven Syme, on Facebook

France keeps Niger poor

In France, one out of every three light bulbs is lit thanks to power plants that rely on uranium mined in Niger (Socialist Worker, 1 November).

In Niger, nearly 90 percent of the population has no access to electricity.

Ilestre Balhazard, on Facebook

Poppy patriots are hypocrites

I am angered by how the media turns the poppy into a nationalist symbol.

We have TV presenters cajoling guests to don the poppy.

I don’t have to tell Socialist Worker readers how our “heroes” were treated after the First World War.

The dissolution of trade union rights, pay and conditions bosses re-asserting themselves, all culminated in the 1926 General Strike.

Richard Manser, Paisley

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