Rape allegations shake British industry association CBI

The day things finally took a turn for the worse was April 21st. Published last Friday Guardians an article about an alleged rape within the powerful British trade association CBI. The story so shook the Confederation of British Industry that it was forced to suspend all activity, at least until an extraordinary general meeting in June. The question is, however, how many will still be there at all.

That Friday was that GuardiansIn any case, the article was online less than three hours before the first company announced that it was terminating CBI membership “with immediate effect”. Insurance group Aviva said that given the serious allegations and the association’s response, “the CBI is no longer able to fulfill its core function of being a representative voice of business in the UK”.

The statement was the beginning of a veritable wave of exits. It wasn’t long before the insurers Lloyds of London followed suit. In addition, there were the auditing firm EY, the department store chain John Lewis, the credit card company Mastercard and the car manufacturers Jaguar Land Rover and BMW. Other companies such as Shell or Rolls-Royce announced that their membership would be suspended. The list of companies that want more or less nothing to do with the CBI is getting longer and longer. On Monday there were already more than 50, and the trend is rising.

The story that the Guardians published on Friday, plunged the industry association into what is arguably its biggest crisis since its founding in 1965. In the article, a woman who worked at a CBI overseas office in 2018 said she was raped by two colleagues. After a night with many alcoholic drinks, she woke up with the two men in the same room. The woman explained to that Guardiansthat could not remember consenting to a sexual act. However, there were physical signs that led her to believe that she had been raped. In addition, after the alleged crime, the men made comments that indicated this. To the Guardians She also showed a photo that apparently shows her unconscious during a sexual act with one of the two men.

Police are investigating sexual harassment, bullying and drug abuse

The alleged victim told the newspaper: “I don’t blame the CBI for raping me. I was very young and people took advantage of me after a night of drinking.” But she blames the CBI for “an atmosphere” that allowed the two alleged perpetrators “to act in this way and then not have to fear the consequences”. The woman said there was no one in the HR department she could have confided in.

CBI President Brian McBride called the newspaper report horrific and offered his condolences to the alleged victim. We are working closely with the police to investigate the allegations. This does not only apply to the case from 2018, about which the Guardians reported, but also for another alleged administration that is said to have taken place at a 2019 CBI staff outing. There are also reports of sexual harassment, bullying and drug abuse.

The industry association only fired its general director Tony Danker on April 11 without notice. The reason for this were allegations of harassment that employees had raised against Danker. His employment contract was terminated for misconduct. Danker is said to have nothing to do with the two alleged rapes.

The new director general is Rain Newton-Smith, the former chief economist of the CBI. She must now try to regain the trust of the members. It won’t be easy. So far, according to the CBI, it has represented 190,000 companies in Great Britain. The organization has around 300 employees and has an annual budget of around 28 million euros, which is mainly financed by membership fees. Depending on their size, the companies pay an annual fee equivalent to up to 114,000 euros. If the wave of departures continues, it will become increasingly difficult financially for the association.

A law firm is to work up the incidents internally. Is that enough?

Politically, the influence of what was once the most powerful business lobby in the kingdom has already ended. The British government has cut off all contacts with the CBI in the wake of the scandal. When Prime Minister Rishi Sunak invited around 200 business representatives to an exchange on Monday, the industry association was not there. This is a turning point for the CBI. For decades, the Confederation of British Industry was considered the most important mouthpiece for British companies. Now she’s suddenly quiet.

There is currently only one piece of information from the CBI: The law firm Fox Williams has been commissioned with an internal investigation of the incidents. It looks like there are more allegations to come. Loud Financial Times More than a dozen women have come forward willing to speak out about the misconduct of CBI colleagues.

Whether a credible clarification succeeds is now primarily up to Rain Newton-Smith, the new general director. It must make it clear that it stands for a cultural change, according to those close to the CBI. If that doesn’t work, the association is on the brink of collapse. There is already all sorts of speculation in London as to who could take the place of the CBI in the future. Because one thing is clear: what was once the most powerful business association in the country is fighting for survival.

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