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Most arts employees have witnessed or experienced "damaging behaviour" at work

Minister Catherine Martin says it’s unacceptable that perpetrators are often those with positions of authority.

Catherine Martin speaks to the media in Dublin City
Catherine Martin speaks to the media in Dublin City
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

THE ARTS MINISTER Catherine Martin says “damaging behaviour” will no longer be tolerated in the arts sector in Ireland.

The Minister’s comments came as a new report found there’s a culture of “harmful workplace behaviour” across the arts, while gender, identity and employment status are significant factors in determining who is victim to and who witnesses the incidents.

The document, called “Speak Up: A Call For Change” outlines the experiences of around 1,300 arts workers.

It concludes that the right to dignity at work is undermined by issues like bullying and harassment among other behaviours, and that’s likely to be “an accepted norm.”

Detailed data analysis was carried out on 1,101 responses as  some people did not complete all or most of the questions in the survey.

Seventy percent of those people have experienced harmful behaviour at work, such as bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, humiliation, victimisation, assault and sexual assault

Just over half, 53%, said they’ve witnessed it.

The report is part of the Irish Theatre Institute’s Speak Up ACTiON Dignity in the Workplace project, that aims to bring about “structural and cultural change” in the sector.

It found that over a fifth of those surveyed have experienced sexual harassment.

Fifty one percent said they’d been bullied at some point at work.

More than 4 in 10 said they’d been humiliated, and 6% have experienced sexual assault.

arts report Figure 1.8 from the report, taken from page 25

New Measures

Minister Catherine Martin has announced a suite of measures to tackle what she says is a “scourge” on the arts, and €200,000 in additional public funding to pay for them.

The Minister welcomed the report, adding that “damaging behaviour” has been reported from people who hold positions of authority, and they’ve often not faced consequences for their actions.

Catherine Martin expressed concern that this is happening across the entire sector, and also within groups that are receiving public funding.

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The measures include:

  • Public funding will be allocated to projects on the condition that national guidelines on workplace safety are followed.
  • Structural supports and resources will be introduced for workers, particularly independent artists and small companies.
  • A “Dignity in the Workplace” website will be developed with tools and information, such as a Code of Behaviour included on it.
  • Bystander training for workers, along with other training opportunities.
  • The Irish Theatre Institute will mark the 5th anniversary of the Waking the Feminists movement, which highlighted gender disparity in the workplace.
  • More surveys will be developed and undertaken to monitor these measures and how they’re performing.

Shine A Spotlight

The report has also been welcomed by the Arts Council and by Screen Ireland.

Director of the Arts Council, Maureen Kennelly paid tribute to the workers who came forward and detailed their experiences within the survey.

She said, “While the findings are stark, they serve to shine a spotlight on the actions necessary to markedly improve Dignity at Work for all artists and arts workers.”

“I welcome the recommendations within today’s report and I look forward to supporting their implementation through collaboration with the Irish Theatre Institute, the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and with colleagues across the arts.”

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