Council takes the pledge to end sexual harassment of hospitality workers

 

By NELL O’SHEA CARRE

Yarra City Council is encouraging local venues to demonstrate zero tolerance for sexual harassment within hospitality venues, by signing the Respect is the Rule pledge.

Cr Danae Bosler, who moved the motion to support Respect is the Rule at the council meeting in September, said she had worked in the hospitality industry had suffered sexual harassment at work.

“If we had training when I was in the workplace back then, I would have known what to do,” she said.

The Respect is the Rule campaign was created in response to a United Voice Victoria survey this year of more than 300 hospitality workers, which showed 89 per cent had been sexually harassed at work. 

Cr Bosler said sexual harassment should be treated as an occupational health issue. 

“The vast majority of people who work in hospitality are women, and the vast majority of them are young, and we work in casual jobs where we are scared to speak up for fear of losing our jobs,” Cr Bosler said.

Venues that sign the pledge are asked to implement several steps to prevent sexual harassment, including establishing a contact person for complaints and showing staff training videos.

So far about 50 Victorian venues have signed the pledge. More than half are in the City of Yarra, including The Rooks Return bar in Fitzroy.

The Rooks Return manager Charlotte Casey said being sexually harassed by patrons of the bar was “a part of life”.

“I think that generally the people that commit the violence or assault aren’t really aware that they’re doing it, and they think they’re being friendly, or they think they’re being silly or whatever. But it’s quite offensive behavior,” Ms Casey said.

The Respect is the Rule campaign followed from a union survey that showed extensive harassment in the hospitality industry.

University student Celeste Jones* said she quit her part-time café job due to being sexually harassed by other staff.

“There was definitely a hierarchy, where the chefs and the managers thought that they could talk to people the way they did – talking behind your back and implying things with a sexual context, and ‘looks’, and ‘compliments’ that break the professional barrier,” she  said.

“They did it to all the girls. We were all kind of young and I didn’t really think anything of it because I’d never experienced it before.”

Ms Jones said she did not think the Respect is the Rule campaign would have entirely stopped the inappropriate behaviour.

Ms Casey said that it was also important to develop an awareness of the issue from a very early age in school.

Cr Bosler agreed that sexual harassment was “part of a bigger system that women are up against”. However, she said the campaign was likely to be successful because  it was created by women who had worked in hospitality themselves.

“We need to fight these sorts of practices everywhere we see them,” Cr Bosler said.

*Not her real name.