Province promises action after 70% of harassment complaints go unreported

The Progressive Conservative government accepts recommendations of two reports on creating a more respectful workplace for Manitoba's civil servants.

Training should be updated and ongoing, 2 reports recommend

Premier Brian Pallister stresses it is critical for staff to feel comfortable in coming forward with complaints. (John Einarson/CBC)

With 17 per cent of surveyed provincial government employees saying they have experienced sexual harassment at work, the government has pledged to accept recommendations from two new reports on how to reduce harassment and bullying in the workplace. 

The reports, released Thursday, propose in-person instead of online training, and separate training for staff designated to hear complaints. Training on the issue should be updated and ongoing, they suggest. One report was by law firm MLT Aikins, the other from the Manitoba Status of Women Secretariat, for both an external and internal perspective on the issue. 

Eight-two per cent of those who say they were harassed were female. Complaints include leering, invading personal space, touching and pinching. The majority (70 per cent) said they did not formally report the harassment for fear of reprisals and negative impacts on careers.

They need not fear there will be reprisals.- Premier Brian Pallister

The PC government says it accepts all of the recommendations made in the reports.

Premier Brian Pallister says the issue "have not been paid attention to for a long time," and says his government is paying attention.

Pallister stressed it is critical for staff to feel comfortable in coming forward with complaints.

We are going to listen, act upon it, and there will be no reprisals.- Status of Women Minister Rochelle Squires

"They need not fear there will be reprisals," Pallister told reporters.

Rochelle Squires, the minister responsible for the status of women, echoed Pallister's comments on receiving complaints.

Province promises action after 70% of harassment complaints go unreported 2:37

"We are going to listen, act upon it, and there will be no reprisals," Squires said.

The government has implemented a "no wrong door" policy in accepting complaints about harassment.

Follows allegations among provincial staff, NDP

The Progressive Conservative government has taken a number of steps to combat sexual harassment and bullying in the civil service over the past several months, including commissioning the reports released Thursday. 

A report released in June listed 20 allegations of sexual harassment and hundreds of accusations of other misconduct among provincial staff.

The Speaker of the Legislature, Myrna Dreidger, has also started a review of current practices for dealing with issues of harassment among politicians and political staff.

Provincial politics were shaken by allegations made last year against former NDP cabinet minister Stan Struthers.​​

Struthers issued an apology after several women, including a former cabinet colleague, came forward to CBC News with allegations of unwanted touching — behaviour they say went on for years despite complaints to NDP brass. 

NDP wants office created

In response, the NDP released its own internal review in May, which outlined an "over-sexualized, sexist and misogynist" culture, in the party.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew said he's made the issue a priority since being elected leader, mandating ongoing anti-harassment training for staff and MLAs, and writing a new workplace anti-harassment policy. Some similar changes are recommended by the MLT Aikins report. 

​Kinew questioned whether a hotline is the best model to encourage employees to come forward. Instead, he wants the Speaker Myrna Driedger to create an independent office for employees to report to. 

"It is our collective responsibility to make sure every person is safe at work and free from harassment — we will continue the work to make this goal a reality," Kinew said in a statement. 

By the numbers: 

17%

of survey respondents said they had experienced sexual harassment while working for the Manitoba government. 

70%

did not formally report it.

82% 

identified as female. 

10% 

are currently experiencing harassment.

90% 

sexually harassed on multiple occasions. 

1 in 3: 

say they were harassed by a coworker.

1 in 3: 

say it was a director supervisor or someone else in a position of authority. 

Most common reasons for not reporting: 

  1. fear of reprisal and negative implications for career.
  2. lack of trust that any change would occur.
  3. feeling like the sexual harassment was not serious enough.
  4. a lack of trust that the process would be respectful. 

Source:  Manitoba Status of Women Secretariat report.