Wednesday 26 July 2017

Museum knew of staff bullying and harassment fears for four years

The National Museum in Dublin. Photo: Tom Burke
The National Museum in Dublin. Photo: Tom Burke
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Major staff welfare issues at the National Museum of Ireland were uncovered by the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) as far back as 2013, an internal document reveals.

The revelation has prompted claims management failed to act sufficiently at the time to get to grips with the problems.

It comes as museum director Raghnall Ó Floinn and chairperson Catherine Heaney face questions at the Oireachtas Arts Committee today after the institution was rocked by allegations of bullying and sexual harassment in recent months.

According to a report released under the Freedom of Information Act, a survey by the LRC advisory service four years ago found 88pc of staff viewed morale as poor, with most pinpointing an industrial relations culture typified by mistrust, adversarialism and poor communications.

Some 92pc of staff said there were problems with the general attitude of senior management to staff, while 85pc said the same about line managers.

Four out of five felt staff concerns were not treated effectively. The survey said staff felt there was an inability of management to motivate them, a lack of collaboration, poor team spirit, and a poor history of resolving conflicts. The only positive note was that 91pc of staff always or sometimes liked working in the museum.

Read more: TD says report on museum sex pest 'destroyed' by someone in Department of Arts

The report was obtained by Oireachtas Arts Committee chairman Peadar Tóibín.

He said it echoed a survey from last October which found 40pc of staff were at risk of developing anxiety, while a fifth complained of being "often" or "always" bullied. "The key point is there seems to have been significant dysfunction for a long period of time. That has led to the working environment of many museum staff being quite toxic," he said.

"Morale levels are extremely low. People are suffering anxiety and claim to be experiencing bullying. You would imagine with such stark results in 2013 that the management within the National Museum, the department and the minister would have got to grips with it.

"But the 2016 report echoes those experiences and seems to show there has been little or no change in the staff experience."

In a statement the museum said funding cuts and a lack of continuity in the organisation of its human resources function "led to challenges".

It said action had been taken following a review in 2013, including the devising of new dignity in work and grievance policies, the setting up of a museum council to deal with industrial relations issues, and the provision of seminars and information sessions to staff on health and wellbeing issues.

Irish Independent

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