‘Sexual harassment isn’t just about celebrities’

Assistant general secretary thanks police and justice members for highlighting the issue of sexual harassment in the police force

Assistant general secretary Christina McAnea used her speech to UNISON’s police and justice conference in Bournemouth today (Thursday) to address sexual harassment in the police sector, and more widely in public services.

She praised the excellent work done by UNISON members on highlighting the issue of sexual harassment in the police service: “Sexual harassment is still alive and well in our public services, we know the reality is the sexual harassment is an abuse of power, it affects men and women, and it isn’t just about celebrities.”

“We know that if you’re a cleaner, working late at night or early in the morning, you’re vulnerable. If you’re a care worker going into homes, you’re at risk. UNISON will be building on this campaign and launching it across all our public services to highlight that workplaces should be harassment-free zones.”

Ms McAnea also praised the vital work that UNISON members in police and justice carry out. “Since 2010 the police and justice sector has been under attack like never before. We’ve had unprecedented cuts and attacks and reorganisations.”

She talked about the pressure staff were under. “We know crime is rising… in particular violent crime and sexual offences. Politicians can’t and shouldn’t ignore it. Sadly, this government doesn’t seem to want to listen to evidence.”

She went on to talk about UNISON’s 25th anniversary, saying that 25 years ago when three unions merged to create UNISON, not everyone was enthusiastic. “We were told it was a bad idea… But we’ve more than survived. Over 160,000 new members join our union every year, because we have a vision, we have a purpose, and we are a union led by our members.”

Ms McAnea also pointed out the unique work that UNISON does to fight for equality. “We’re the only union that by rule ensures that women are in the majority in our democratic structures. A commitment to equality and justice is at the heart of what we do.”

“We fight racism, we campaign for justice for migrant workers, and now we’re part of the campaign for the Windrush generation, we are the union that led the campaign for the minimum wage and now we’re leading the campaign for the real living wage. We’re even part of a trade union group that is trying to wipe Ebola off the face of the earth.”

She ended by thanking delegates for their work. “The main reason that UNISON is the biggest union is because of the work you do, day in and day out, in your workplaces.”