A human resources specialist, who says she personally witnessed issues of harassment and discrimination when she worked for the City of London more than 15 years ago, says the city needs to tackle current allegations in a direct and transparent way.
Catherine Burr has a long history as a human resources consultant, working with the Ontario and Canadian Human Rights commissions, along with a number of public and private sector organizations.
She tells 980 CFPL she was hired by the city in 2002 in the wake of a sexual assault case involving two employees.
“I was only there for eight or nine months, and I found it impossible to do the job I was hired to do and I eventually left,” Burr said.
“I personally experienced unbelievable resistance from senior management to making change, to dealing with the issues, and I directly experienced or observed repeated incidents of discrimination, harassment, bullying, unethical practices and abuse of power.”
Earlier this week, Megan Walker, executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, called city hall a poisoned work environment, saying she’s received upwards of 70 complaints from city employees alleging harassment and abuse.
Burr says city hall officials need to address the problem head on.
“I think they need to stop being defensive. They need to say, ‘We’ve got a problem here and we’ve got to deal with it,'” Burr said.
“They’ve been advised by the London Abused Women’s Shelter that there are these concerns. They should take that seriously and begin to address it.”
Burr says tax paying Londoners have the right to know what’s going on. “They shouldn’t be putting everything under the cone of silence, saying that is a personnel issue, so they can’t speak to that. I think citizens of London need more transparency than that.”
She recommends hiring an organization, from outside London, to assess the nature of the problems being reported and then figure out how to improve the situation.
With files from 980 CFPL’s Liny Lamberink.