CBI dismisses ‘a number of people’ after sexual misconduct allegations

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The Confederation of British Industry has dismissed “a number of people” after a series of sexual misconduct allegations at the under-pressure lobby group.

Its president Brian McBride said that the board and senior leaders felt “a collective sense of shame” for having let down staff at the business group.

“In retrospect, we now know that we were complacent. And we made mistakes in how we organised the business that led to terrible consequences,” Mr McBride said.

He said that a number of other members of staff have been dismissed for not maintaining the high standards expected of them. It follows the dismissal of former CBI director general Tony Danker two weeks ago.

It also follows articles in the Guardian newspaper, which had spoken to more than a dozen women who claimed to be victims of sexual harassment while working at the CBI.

Two of these women say that they were raped.

Mr McBride said that the group had not managed to filter out “culturally toxic people” when hiring.

The group also did not act properly when allegations were made internally against these people, he said.

“We tried to find resolution in sexual harassment cases when we should have removed those offenders from our business.

“In retrospect, this last point was our most grievous error, which led to a reluctance amongst women to formalise complaints.

“It allowed that very small minority of staff with regressive – and, in some cases, abhorrent – attitudes towards their female colleagues to feel more assured in their behaviour, and more confident of not being detected.

“And it led victims of harassment or violence to believe that their only option was to take their experiences to a newspaper.”

“The greatest of these emotions is a collective sense of shame, for having so badly let down the enthusiastic, ambitious and passionate people who came to work at the CBI.

“They rightly expected to be able to do so in a safe environment, and we failed them.”

He also told members that the group had communicated poorly with them after the allegations were made public.

“In doing so, commentators concluded that the organisation was cold-hearted and toxic, and that serious allegations of rape had been covered up, when in fact they were never made known to the senior leadership or to the board of the CBI until revealed by The Guardian,” Mr McBride said.

The body suspended its policy and membership activity last Friday after dozens of members said that they were leaving or suspending their interactions with the CBI.

This came after the Guardian published the second rape allegation on Friday.

Mr McBride said that the group would try to regain members’ trust.

“Whether that is possible, I simply don’t know. That is, of course, for each of you to decide,” he said.

The CBI has in the past been a powerful voice for businesses across the UK, and claims to represent the interests of around 190,000 companies.

The majority of these are not direct members, but rather members of trade bodies which are themselves CBI members.

A large part of the CBI’s role has in the past been to lobby for the interests of their members with ministers, officials and opposition MPs.

But on Monday, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt questioned the point of liaising with the CBI after it lost such a large proportion of its membership.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Hunt said it is “incredibly important” to engage with a body that represents British business.

But he added: “There’s no point engaging with the CBI when their own members have deserted them in droves.

“So we want to engage with a body that sticks up for business. It is incredibly important for me when I’m constructing budgets to have someone I can turn to who speaks for British business.”

The CBI has already suspended most of its activities, and will try to regroup ahead of a membership meeting in June.

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