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Municipal union poll suggests widespread sexual harassment

Some 38 percent of respondents to a poll from the Jyty union - representing mostly female municipal and church workers - say they have experienced sexual harassment at work. Close to 90 percent of respondents report being subject to lewd talk and sexist comments while on the job. 

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Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

A survey commissioned by Finland's Federation of Public and Private Sector Employees, known as Jyty, reveals that over a third of its members feel they have experienced sexual or gender-based harassment at work. The member survey was carried out last month, with 2,449 of its approximately 50,000-members taking part.

Results show that 38 percent of the respondents have experienced what they feel was tantamount to sexual harassment at work, most often from their colleagues in the work environment.

Fewer than one in three reports being sexual harassed by customers or patients. Eight percent of survey respondents indicated that they had experienced harassment in the last year.

"The number of people experiencing sexual harassment in their work community is alarmingly high, and there is also a lot of harassment taking place in the course of customer and service work," says Jyty's chair Maija Pihlajamäki.

Embraces, kisses and offensive language

Of those who reported harassment, over 60 percent said they had been the recipients of unwanted physical contact like touching, hugs or kisses.

Close to 90 percent of the union survey respondents said they had been exposed to lewd talk and inappropriate comments on their bodies or sexuality. A further 80 percent reported being on the receiving end of personal comments or threats that they found distressing.

Founded in 1918, Jyty represents people that work for municipalities, joint municipal authorities or parishes. It also looks after the interests of employees in third-sector private companies that work for either municipalities or churches. It is a member union of the 650,000-member Finnish Confederation of Professionals STTK.

Members typically work as municipal secretaries or administrators, personnel in social services or youth and service organizations, or as library and school staff.

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