Mayor responds to allegations from women's advocate

Mayor Matt Brown's office issued a statement at around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday reiterating the city's commitment to addressing harassment and making improvements to workplace culture.

London Mayor Matt Brown says the city has an obligation to keep 'these types of matters' confidential

London Mayor Matt Brown says city council is making significant changes and seeing improvements in workplace culture. (Google Maps)

London mayor Matt Brown says he can't tackle complaints about workplace harassment at city departments in the media.

At about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday the mayor issued a statement reaffirming his support for city manager Martin Hayward. He said the city is committed to creating a harassment and discrimination-free workplace.

The mayor is responding to comments made by London Abused Women's Centre executive director Megan Walker.

Walker said she received 29 phone calls in a week from city workers with allegations of workplace harassment and reprisals for those who speak out.

Brown said city staff have options available to them if they want to reach out for help, including the city's human resources representatives, union representatives and the labour relations board. 

The mayor went on to say that city council has made significant changes in the past year and is seeing improvements in workplace culture. But he said these improvements take time.

"Often times being a leader means dealing with difficult and sensitive information; it means working through appropriate channels and not negotiating in the media or giving in to ultimatums, but rather taking a careful look at a situation and taking appropriate action," he said.

"If we need to make adjustments to our policies, we will."

A spokesperson for the mayor said he is on March break beginning Wednesday.

Hayward: We're on it

Manager Martin Hayward said he's confident that he can create change within the city, and that he already has. 

"I was walking down the halls today, and people were coming up to me in all parts of the organization and they were saying 'Martin, keep it up' and patting me on the back," said Hayward.

"When people unsolicited come up to you and try to encourage you, that is a good thing and that is a sign of change here."

Grievances within one city union dropped by almost half between 2016 and 2017, Hayward said. 

Hayward said that the city isn't a perfect organization, and that it will be working toward further change in the next few years.

In particular, the city plans to re-examine the intake process for those that make complaints, and will try to make it safer. This review could involve the help of an independent third party, he said.

"I think people are feeling that they may be exposed if they come through the intake process," he said. "No process of investigation is comfortable for anybody, however we want to make it safer for people to actually make the initial complaint."

Hayward noted that the city already has a zero-tolerance policy for reprisals against those that speak out about harassment or discrimination. 

Hayward said he couldn't comment on harassment within particular city departments, but did say that he's aware of conversations that are happening on social media. 

"If you look at some or all of the Twitter complaints at this point, I think a lot of them suggest fire, and other people suggested fire, so that's certainly one area that seems to have been highlighted by the outside world," he said. 

Late Tuesday night the London Professional Fire Fighters Association released a statement, saying that after talks with Hayward they would establish a joint union-management committee to develop "strategies for examining, reviewing, and improving employee support structure." 

The union is committed to maintaining a harassment-free and bullying-free workplace, the statement said. 

Mayor's statement

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With files from Kate Dubinski