Last month saw the release of a shocking video in which former TSSA rail union employee Claire Laycock alleged sexual harassment by the union’s general secretary and other figures from the union’s management. The video ended with a statement TSSA press spokesperson, essentially denying the allegations made and attributing them to a ‘disgruntled’ former employee.
Senior women figures in the union movement and wider Labour movement came out in solidarity with Laycock and a number of further victims of alleged sexual assault, harassment and widespread bullying within the trade union.
Despite telling Skwawkbox that the union does not use NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) to gag whistleblowers, TSSA took Laycock the journalist who released the video to the High Court in a bid to have the video removed and to silence Laycock in line with an NDA. The Court rejected the attempt to have the video removed but granted a temporary gagging order on Laycock, leading to a bizarre situation in which her allegations remained online but she was unable to make any further comment. The injunction was to be reviewed two weeks later. Costs were awarded against the union and the injunction was subsequently lifted last week, as Laycock reported in a subsequent video update:
Soon after the initial hearing, which took place whilst the union’s annual conference was underway, the TSSA announced that it would cooperate with an investigation by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) into the allegations made – and that it would scrap the use of NDAs. Laycock’s supporters said they welcomed news of the TUC investigation but would also like to be involved in its design.
The follow-up hearing on the gagging order was then cancelled at the last minute, leaving Laycock in the stressful position of not knowing whether she was gagged or not. Meanwhile, the union’s Assistant General Secretary and the TSSA’s president the TUC’s Frances O’Grady to start the process of setting up the investigation. Despite demands for victims or their representatives to take part in this meeting, none was invited to participate, causing considerable outrage that the TUC’s female general secretary would meet only with senior male members of a union.
To date, Skwawkbox understands that every person named in Laycock’s video remains in post – there have been no suspensions or nor apparently any ramifications – in fact, one of the men allegedly involved in incidents she reported has been promoted. Women in the movement say that widespread sexual abuse and harassment has been met with inaction for far too long.
Women in the union movement, unsurprisingly, say they find it very hard as trade unionists to fight for the employment rights of members when their own colleagues are experiencing disgraceful treatment at the hands of senior figures in the same movement. In the light of the damning findings of an investigation into the GMB union regarding the treatment of women staff there, many female union staffers have approached the TUC asking for help to eradicate this problem.
Skwawkbox has been told that at least seven other people have so far come forward with allegations of abuse at the TSSA, along with more who have experienced it in other unions.
If any readers have experienced or witnessed sexual assaults, sexual harassment or bullying of trade union staff, they are invited to contact MeTUwomen@gmail.com, where revelations and experiences will be treated with confidentiality and respect. If trade unionists work together, they can bring an end to a situation that brings shame on the entire movement.
SKWAWKBOX needs your help. The site is provided free of charge but depends on the support of its readers to be viable. If you’d like to help it keep revealing the news as it is and not what the Establishment wants you to hear – and can afford to without hardship – please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal or here to set up a monthly donation via GoCardless (SKWAWKBOX will contact you to confirm the GoCardless amount). Thanks for your solidarity so SKWAWKBOX can keep doing its job.
If you wish to republish this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.