AN embarrassing report on Irish Rail exposes high levels of bullying and of sexual harassment in the state transport company.
The report, obtained by the Sunday Independent, reveals that almost a third of staff surveyed were bullied or harassed and many employees had "no confidence" in the company's ability to deal with their complaints.
Almost 30 per cent of those surveyed said they were bullied; almost 27 per cent said they had been harassed; and seven per cent said they had been sexually harassed.
It found "high levels of perception of sexual harassment, harassment and bullying in the workplace . . . although, officially, the organisation only deals with a small number of cases annually".
Staff also "lacked confidence" in management's ability to deal with the allegations and observed that "bullying is clearly an area that requires urgent action on the part of Iarnrod Eireann".
The report was completed in 2007, but staff were not circulated with its findings until earlier this year. The findings are embarrassing for the CIE Group, as they confirm that bullying and harassment remain rife in the state transport sector. A similar report on Bus Eireann a number of years ago found even higher levels of bullying, with more than 36 per cent of staff claiming they had been victimised.
Irish Rail has dealt with a number of bullying claims in the past and one former employee currently has a case before the Equality Tribunal.
According to the equality review, Irish Rail's equality office had dealt with 24 cases of bullying and harassment in 12 months, which did not reflect the number of official cases dealt with by the company. With almost one fifth of Irish Rail's 5,000-strong workforce surveyed, the findings suggest that about 300 employees claimed they were bullied; 270 claimed they were harassed; and 70 say they were sexually harassed.
Levels of perceived bullying were much higher than in other employment sectors. A national workplace survey by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) two years ago recorded levels of bullying at seven per cent, while only one per cent of employees experienced sexual harassment.
"Overall, it is clear that bullying is an issue of great concern to the staff that responded to the survey. It would appear that to relieve their concerns, the issue needs to be reviewed by the company," the report said.
While employees were mostly happy with their working conditions and a majority found their jobs rewarding, the company was perceived to be male dominated.
Women complained that men were more likely to be promoted, and absence of women in senior management roles was also noted. Older workers claimed there was a practice of "bullying out" older staff. Black African and Asian staff said they were well treated by the company but reported occasional rudeness or racism from customers.
The review also praised the "many positive initiatives" introduced by the company, including an equality programme instigated by the state company in 1998. The report said that the efforts of the equality officer needed to be "matched by an effective response" from local supervisors and managers.
A spokesman for Irish Rail said the equality audit's findings were circulated to staff and management earlier this year. "Our trade unions were fully involved in this process and we will continue to work with them to implement the action plan," he added.