The South African Federation of Trade Unions is outraged by the findings of the commission of inquiry into sexual harassment at the SABC.
Not only did it reveal evidence of widespread harassment, abuse and discrimination against women employees and freelancers, but also an appalling lack of action by management against the alleged perpetrators.
The commission found:
- None of the alleged offenders were suspended or charged with sexual harassment. The alleged perpetrators often continued working and were then later found guilty of a lesser charge such as unprofessional behaviour;
- There was a strong perception that Human Resources (HR) and senior managers often colluded with alleged perpetrator in cover-ups;
- Employees rarely blew the whistle because they feared losing their jobs‚ there was a lack of trust and lost confidence in HR; and
- HR and most senior managers lacked knowledge and understanding of human rights statutes‚ gender relations and power relations between men and women.
“Sex for jobs” is one of the most serious allegations, particularly for freelancers who can more easily be hired and fired. All but two of the eleven victims interviewed by the commission were freelancers.
Commission member, and former chairperson of the the Commission for Gender Equality, Mfanozelwe Shozi, said that “Management won’t even suspend that person. The victim will work with that particular person every day… The victim will always be victimised. When the report has been finalised‚ it won’t be shared with the victim‚ but it will be shared with the perpetrator.”
SAFTU demands that the SABC board immediately take action against all the alleged perpetrators, in line with the commission’s report, and that where there is evidence of criminal acts, legal action must be taken to bring the culprits to justice.
The federation is already campaigning against the SABC’s possible retrenchment of 981 employees and about 1‚200 freelancers, and is now worried that this could be used as a way of getting rid of the victims and whistle blowers. That makes it even more necessary to fight to defend every job.
It is particularly serious that such sexual harassment should be taking place in the public broadcaster, which ought to embody the highest standards of morality and set the best possible example in the way it treats its women staff.
The problem however is certainly not confined to the SABC, as we see for example in the worldwide protests against sexual harassment by Google workers.
All public institutions and private companies should establish similar commissions of inquiry as the one at the SABC, and encourage victims and witnesses of sexual harassment to come forward, blow the whistle and say “#metoo”.
There must be zero tolerance of sexual harassment, and all forms of abuse and discrimination against women workers.
SAFTU itself has taken steps to apply this approach in respect of its own employees. It has just held a Central Committee meeting which adopted a sexual harassment policy within the disciplinary code and will be adopting a general sexual harassment policy for its leaders and members in the forthcoming meeting of the National Executive Committee scheduled for 20–22 November 2018.
The policy lays down that immediate action must be taken against those accused of any such conduct, that there must be an immediate suspension of the alleged perpetrator in the cases of serious allegations such as rape, a disciplinary hearing, and dismissal if the allegation is found to be true. The policy includes the establishment of a gender equity committee that must be trained to conduct hearings that relate to sexual harassment.
SAFTU’s commitment to creation a workplaces free from sexual harassment, and gender violence and a society that will end thousands of years of patriarchy, remains unshaken.