NTEU welcomes UA sexual harassment survey, but sexual harassment remains a serious workplace risk

NTEU welcomes UA sexual harassment survey, but sexual harassment remains a serious workplace risk.

While welcoming the announcement by Universities Australia (UA) of the second national survey into sexual harassment and assaults on university campuses, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has hit back at a lack of commitment to addressing the safety and health of members of their workforce who are also subject to sexual assault and harassment.

Universities have an obligation to provide a safe working environment for their staff as well as their students, which includes protection against sexual harassment, and sexual assault.”

In response to the previous survey initiated by UA and conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), NTEU conducted a national survey of members working in universities.

NTEU President Dr Alison Barnes said, “The results of our own survey showed that the culture of sexual harassment on campuses that AHRC identified applies to staff as much as it applies to students. Just under one- in-five respondents said that they had personally experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and, alarmingly, just under 40% of all respondents said that they were aware of others who had been sexually harassed in their workplace.”

“Universities say that they have improved their education, reporting and complaints processes for students. Yet our survey showed there to be extremely low rates of reporting for staff, who are in the same environments and often dealing with the same perpetrators of harassment and assault. Only 3% of men and 6% of women who had reported sexual harassment reported that they had made a formal complaint.”

Dr Barnes said, “We welcome the decision by UA and universities to use this second survey as a way of reviewing the strategies that they have put in place following the first student focused survey on sexual harassment.”

“They have an equally important obligation to also ensure that the processes they have in place for staff who have experienced sexual harassment and assault are effective and trusted by staff.”

“Employers must treat sexism, sexual harassment and assault as serious workplace health and safety risks and take responsibility for ensuring that our workplaces are safe and free from threats of sexual harassment and gender based discrimination.” Dr Barnes said.

“We call on universities to engage with the NTEU on addressing sexual harassment in the workplace and to demonstrate the same commitment to researching the issue and improving procedures as they are for students”

“Finally, the Australian government needs to sign onto new ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work later this year, which treats sexual harassment as a workplace risk.” Dr Barnes said.

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