City manager apologizes, commits to third party review of harassment complaints and procedures at city hall

City manager, Martin Hayward, says the city will conduct a third party review of complaints and their policies and procedures for dealing with harassment. Matthew Trevithick/980 CFPL

London’s city manager has offered an apology to employees who have struggled to come forward with allegations about harassment and workplace culture at city hall.

“I’m sorry that people have had to go through this, that they have to suffer this,” said Martin Hayward, speaking with 980 CFPL’s The Craig Needles Show on Thursday.

Faced with allegations about harassment and abuse inside the walls of city hall, Hayward said the city has pledged itself to conducting a third party review.

READ MORE: HR expert recommends London City Hall address workplace harassment allegations head on

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“We can’t just ignore what’s come forward,” he explained.

“We’ve got to acknowledge that there are issues — and we do.”

As for who will conduct the review, Hayward said the city is in the decision-making process, and he hopes to have an answer by early next week.

When the third party is selected, Hayward said there are already five or six complaints in a file, ready to be looked into. That’s compared to the more than 70 complaints the London Abused Women’s Centre said it had received by Thursday morning.

Hayward hopes launching an independent review into claims will “allow people to trust the results,” and will help them feel safe bringing forward claims to the city itself.

READ MORE: Boyfriend of city hall worker on stress leave alleges workplace bullying and harassment

The second part of the solution, said Hayward, is to look into policy and procedures.

“As you know, we have a new director of human resources that’s been looking at this and suggesting areas for change, and we’re going to bring forward ideas. This has just stepped up into high-gear.”

But a policy change is not enough for the head of the London Abused Women’s Centre, Megan Walker, who says the policies already exist.

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“It doesn’t really matter how solid these policies are if every single day, there is at least one employee walking into a toxic and poisoned workplace,” she explained.

Walker wants to see a shift towards a culture that fosters diversity, inclusivity, belonging and safety.

On Twitter, she also condemned Hayward’s response that city hall would not be looking into any leadership changes.

“No leadership changes? Really? So, let’s protect our buddies and allow the status quo of a poisoned workplace to continue. No leadership,” she wrote.

READ MORE: London firefighters union to set up working group in response to allegations of harassment in the workplace

But Hayward admitted that a culture shift will take time and effort.

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“We’re hearing a lot of issues from one specific area, we’ve tried to make some changes in that area, but there’s obviously more that’s needed.”

Along with the apology, Hayward added that he can empathize with what city workers might be experiencing.

“I think I’ve said before, I’ve actually endured it as well, when I was a younger junior manager,” he said.

“It’s not pleasant, and I don’t want to see anyone go through that.”

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