Equity councillor Jean Rogers has resigned after 13 years, claiming she has felt “disrespected, bullied and harassed” for some time.
Rogers, who remains a member of Equity’s Women’s Committee and was vice president between 2004 and 2014, argued that the union is a “patriarchy” and called its complaints procedure “unfit for purpose”.
It is understood that while Rogers has resigned from the council, she is not permanently retiring and still has future plans with the union.
Her action follows Equity’s recent interim report into sexual harassment in the sector, titled the Agenda for Change.
In a resignation speech, delivered when the council was debating the Agenda for Change, Rogers said she “of course welcomes” the report, but finds it “long overdue”.
She told councillors that she would have resigned in October, but she “was not not going to let anything stop her” from launching a new system to create gender parity in casting, called Neropa , in January.
Rogers revealed she was resigning because she “did not feel protected” as an elected councillor, despite committee and council guidelines.
“For a number of years I have felt disrespected, bullied and harassed, resulting in ill health, sleepless nights and demoralisation,” she said.
Addressing council, she added: “The union has known I have felt bullied since 2014, and, beyond advising me I could formally complain, it was unable to protect me.
“I kept quiet, tried to build bridges, but when female members were treated in a similar way because they supported me, I finally plucked up courage, stuck my head above the parapet – enough was enough – a year ago almost to this day.”
Rogers went on to argue that the whole complaints procedure is “unfit for purpose” and it was a “prolonged, hurtful-beyond-belief process”.
She added: “My only consolation is that out of all this pain will come a process that will protect members in the future from being victimised and bullied.”
A statement issued by Equity confirmed that Rogers approached the union in 2014 to raise concerns about alleged bullying and harassment by fellow members.
The statement said: “She was advised that she could make a formal complaint within the union’s rules. She did not do this until 2016. Following a full investigation by a panel of Equity members, it was found there was insufficient evidence to uphold Jean’s complaint.”
The Equity statement also rejected Rogers’ claim that the union is a patriarchy.
It said: “Under the leadership of Christine Payne, since her election as general secretary in 2005, the union has made great steps forward in addressing important issues around equality and diversity both within the union itself – its staff and democratic structures – and within the industry through its collective agreements and campaigns.
“It is without doubt that the council has lost a very committed and able councillor in Jean, but we are glad she remains a member of the Women’s Committee and the union will continue to benefit from her activism.”
The statement added that equality and diversity remained “core to the union’s work”.