Support staff at No 10 and the Cabinet Office have been bullied and harassed for years, according to a union member in Whitehall.
The claim comes after Sue Gray’s report into the Partygate scandal revealed that cleaners and security guards were subjected to ‘disrespect and abuse’, and yet felt ‘unable to help. raise [this] correctly” with the authorities.
A member of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union working in the Cabinet Office said: ‘The Prime Minister’s apology is too little, too late. There has been a culture of bullying, harassment and sexism at No 10 for many years.
Incidents reported to the Guardian by staff include sexually derogatory comments made by senior officials towards female staff in front of union members; and swearing and drinking alcohol in front of cleaning staff.
In the conclusion of his report, Gray states, “I found that some staff had witnessed or been subjected to behaviors at work that concerned them, but at times felt unable to raise properly.
“I have been made aware of multiple instances of disrespect and mistreatment by security and cleaning staff.
“It was unacceptable. I am reassured to see that steps have since been taken to introduce more easily accessible means of raising concerns electronically, in person or online, including directly to the Permanent Secretary of No 10.
“I hope this will truly embed a culture that welcomes and creates opportunities for challenge and speaking out at all levels.”
Addressing MPs in the Commons, Boris Johnson apologized to security and cleaning staff for their ‘appalling’ treatment.
He insisted he had “no knowledge” of such treatment, saying he was “surprised and disappointed” to hear about it.
According to the union member, the mistreatment of staff was evident under his predecessor’s premiership and continued under Johnson.
“It was going on behind Theresa May’s back before he took office, but he did nothing about it. His empty words will be no consolation to cleaners and security guards who have suffered under his leadership,” they said.
A union representing cleaners from other departments, meanwhile, said it was “not surprised at all” by the Gray report’s revelations.
“We have many members who work as cleaners and security guards, and these workers face disrespect on a daily basis in London offices, not just Downing Street,” said Petros Elia, general secretary of the United Voices union. of World (UVW). . “Most cleaners and security guards are ethnic minority, black, brown and migrant workers, who are disproportionately affected by poor working conditions and racial inequality.”
UVW members include Justice Department cleaners who staged a strike during the pandemic after the union repeatedly raised concerns about worker safety, lack of PPE and failure to promise a full sick pay to those who may need to self-isolate.
A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: ‘We do not tolerate bullying, harassment or discrimination in any form of anyone in our workplaces, whether staff or assistants. contractors.
“Our latest data shows that reported incidents in the public service have fallen to their lowest level on record, with a sharp rise in the number of people who believe appropriate action has been taken, but we know there is still work to be done. TO DO.
“The diversity and inclusion strategy builds on progress made in recent years by setting out clear and specific actions for departments, including regular reviews of progress and campaigns across government that help staff raise concerns.”