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Concerns raised in parliament over Stib sexism allegations

Brussels region Minister of Mobility Elke Van den Brandt pictured on an STIB – MIVB bus, Monday 23 August 2021 in Brussels. (BELGA PHOTO LAURIE DIEFFEMBACQ)
11:21 19/01/2022

Brussels mobility minister Elke Van den Brandt has reacted with concern over ongoing allegations that female members of staff at Stib, the Brussels public transport company, have been photographed without their knowledge by their male colleagues.

Speaking at a session of the mobility committee of the Brussels parliament on Tuesday, Van den Brandt told assembled colleagues that “female employees have complained to Stib about photographs of them which were allegedly taken by colleagues while they slept in the rest room and then posted on social networks,” and that the allegations of sexist behaviour were “very, very serious”.

“It is difficult for the Stib to assess the extent of the phenomenon which it considers, of course, to be totally unacceptable as the incidents took place in closed groups,” the minister continued. “These incidents have also been reported as indirect not formal complaints, so Stib unfortunately has no real means of action without more information except to encourage victims to point out the culprits and file a complaint of cyber harassment with the police.”

While no official complaint of cyber harassment has been made to the management or the police "that does not mean that the Stib is not aware,” Van den Brandt said. “The information has been passed up through the hierarchy.”

Stib, for now, has no additional details regarding the allegations which are thought to be based on incidents which took place prior to the company’s internal campaign against sexism carried out from March 2021.

In March last year, after the allegations were first brought to light during meetings between management and unions, the Stib launched a vast internal campaign to fight against sexism and harassment.

The Stib then installed posters related to the theme of sexism around its locations, created awareness capsules to discuss sexism at the workplace, and initiated an online e-learning course which was accessible to all employees.

On 7 October, during a meeting of the equal opportunities commission of the Brussels Parliament, Tamara Eelsing, diversity manager at Stib, presented a video on this theme, which had also been shown to Stib staff.

A memo card detailing the different channels available for victims of sexism was also handed out, along with guidelines on acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in the workplace. Stib’s general management also sent a letter to its approximately 10,000 employees expressing its desire to display "zero tolerance" in the face of transgressive sexual behaviour.

Female members of staff from the Stib’s Jacques Brel depot, taking part in the demonstrations to mark International Day against Violence to women on 25 November, also handed out flyers denouncing harassment.

"This is a crucial issue supported by all of Stib's social partners and which is the subject of regular consultation within Stib's bodies and constant attention from management," explained Elke Van den Brandt. “Of course, the problem of sexism is not specific to Stib or public transport,” she added. “It is societal, sometimes from kindergarten upwards. It is anchored in the collective unconscious.”

Stib intends to launch a new campaign against sexism in the coming weeks, Minister Van den Brandt concluded.

Written by Nick Amies