VICE UK COLLECTIVE WORKERS STATEMENT

We, a collective of workers at VICE UK, are deeply disappointed and upset by the findings of a recent New York Times exposé about the company. However, at the same time, we are pleased that this piece has opened up discussions about changes within the company that have evidently needed to happen for some time. We stand in solidarity with all the survivors who have come forward. We believe them, and we believe that urgent change is necessary to make our workplace a fairer and safer place for all employees.

While some of us have been at VICE UK several months and others years, we are united in our aim to make this company a place where anyone, especially women, can flourish without fear of sexual harassment, racism or reprisal for speaking their mind. The revelations that the company pays more for silence than in wages is abhorrent, as is the knowledge our co-workers and superiors have been involved in abuse.

As VICE UK workers, we are part of the culture and are not exempt from responsibility. We must take active and thoughtful steps to alter the way in which this ‘boys club’ operates and perpetuates sexism and racism. We want VICE to be a voice against sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of prejudice, and this cannot happen while as long as our workplace culture perpetuates any of these problems.

Many women join VICE at an early and vulnerable point in their career. For some, sexual harassment and conscious and unconscious prejudice have overshadowed their future in journalism and severely damaged their confidence. This is unforgivable and not something that we can apologise away. As current UK employees, we have come together independently
to discuss and move towards the creation of a workplace culture based on equality. It is not enough to have a white female figurehead such as Gloria Steinem on an executive board, one that feels far away in the US. We are the journalists, filmmakers and creators that work with people on the ground. We need to be able to ensure that conversations that promise change are felt in the working conditions for the ground staff here in the UK and not just to save face for our executives.

Firstly, workplace safety must be paramount. This means that there needs to be an independent system where people feel empowered and comfortable to report harassment. From the findings of the New York Times, it is evident that we have been let down in this way. Not only have HR and management failed to take instances of harassment seriously, it is clear that people do not know how to deal with them. Therefore, we also suggest that everyone who works at VICE be given sexual harassment training in order provide a framework that may establish a safer working environment. Our concerns should not be shrugged away as ‘boys will be boys’ nor as ‘banter’.

Secondly, we demand an independent investigation. As more allegations emerge online, we believe that VICE needs to employ independent investigators, in a similar style to the Old Vic, to truly ascertain the size of the problem and act on the findings appropriately.

Thirdly, there needs to be an effort to diversify hiring and support and retain existing employees from minority backgrounds. At the top, VICE is extremely white and male. This is no good in any company but is especially poor when we are reporting on stories that are supposed to be of interest to millions. We believe that this would also prevent VICE’s content from having the tone of the ‘boys club’ that the company desperately needs to move away from.

Fourthly, we want workers to be given positions on the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board. In order for the board to have the trust and respect of all of VICE’s employees, it is vital that there is representation from all parts of the company. Hiring a new corporate board in the US and staffing it with a majority of white women from the highest levels of the company does not resolve the deep seated issues within VICE, especially as it is still unclear how this board will work, what its powers are, and to whom it is accountable.

Lastly, we demand the immediate suspension of named alleged abusers. After our proposed independent investigation, there should be immediate removal for those found to have participated in abusive practices. Mere words and promises are not enough if VICE is to convince contributors, partners, freelancers and most importantly the women in its employ that the company is changing. It is difficult to see how the company can demonstrate that when it is still being run by people who oversaw habitual sexual harassment and tried to buy the silence of those that tried to speak out. For example, Andrew Creighton is still the President of VICE despite the revelation of a large payoff to a former employee who claimed she was fired after rejecting an intimate relationship with him. This is deeply troubling and we are unsure how he is being allowed to remain at the top of the company.

We are sharing our thoughts to let others know that we are taking this seriously and want to change VICE’s culture. We are setting up an independent email and if anyone would like to email us or join us from the UK office, we can be reached there. We also recognise that this statement is an imperfect start to a change that we need to continue and encourage others to get involved and share their thoughts.

Our email is v1ceworkersuk@gmail.com

Original New York Times article: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/23/business/vice-media-statement-on-harassment-allegations-and-its-workplace-culture.html

Julia Smith is a pseudonym, you won’t have any luck looking her up.

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