Policies passed at AWL Conference 2018, to be reviewed January 2020.
A copy of our Safeguarding Handbook (including policies and training documents) can be downloaded here.
Code of Conduct
These guidelines are intended to help us in our day-to-day dealings with each other, to allow us to function effectively politically as individuals and as an organisation.
In the AWL we call each other “comrades”, and our relations with each other should be comradely.
AWL members should:
* Maintain a spirit of solidarity with each other, even though we may sometimes have angry and bitter political or organisational conflicts.
* Treat each other with respect, regardless of any personal friendship issues or fallings-out.
* Communicate our ideas and values positively to friends, work colleagues etc.
* Relate to other AWL members in a comradely way, regardless of personal fallings-out.
The following points are the duty of all AWL members, in particular, of organisers:
* Work to safeguard the welfare of children (under 16) and young people (between 16 and 18) in and around the AWL.
AWL members should not:
* Engage in discriminatory language or behaviour (including, but not limited to, language or behaviour which is sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, disablist, discriminatory against people with physical or mental ill-health).
* Monopolise contact with a friend who wishes to talk politics with the AWL. Instead, ask the AWL branch organiser to put them in touch with another AWL member who will meet them for political discussions. (This is to avoid a confusion of the personal and political relationships - so that the contact's political relationship with the AWL can be separated out from any fortunes or misfortunes of the personal friendship.)
* Use any position of prestige or authority for sexual advantage (in particular, in relation to younger comrades).
* Use sarcasm, put-downs, talking-over, etc. Extended bad-mouthing of other comrades behind their backs should be considered a significant breach of the code of conduct, even where there is criticism or conflict between members. This clause should not be used to block political polemic.
* In addition, AWL organisers should:
* Be sensitive to potential issues of power dynamics (e.g. gender, age, etc.) when pairing a new comrade with a more experienced comrade for political discussions.
* Seek to motivate AWL members, whether by positive motivation (encouragement, praise etc.) or, if necessary, criticism or rebuke, objectively (in terms of the consequences for the AWL and for socialism), not subjectively (in terms of the consequences for the organiser personally).
AWL organisers should not:
* Bestow “patronage” – reward friendly personal relations with more prestigious roles in political activity (in particular, in relation to younger comrades).
* Pose the request as a personal favour when asking AWL members to undertake tasks or activities.
Procedure for Complaints and Grievances
This procedure is:
* Intended for use when normal comradely relations have broken down;
* For use in personal disputes and matters of behaviour, not political disagreement;
* To be used in conjunction with the AWL Code of Conduct and Safeguarding Policy.
It can be used for collective complaints.
The procedure should be accessible to all members and non-members. The procedure will be publicly available, e.g. on the website.
In the case of a complaint from a non-member the Disputes Committee (DC) has the option of responding that it considers a complaint vexatious or outside its competence. The DC should keep the National Committee briefed on the complaint and its response.
Principles of Procedure
This procedure has an informal and formal stage, designed to resolve situations as quickly and in as comradely a way as possible.
Mediation can be asked for by any party at any stage, and external independent mediation support will be used where necessary.
If the complaint is of a serious nature - e.g. serious bullying, predatory sexual behaviour, sexual harassment - it will be appropriate to go immediately to the formal stage.
Where comrades are told of or witness or have credible third party report of serious abuse which they feel would be grounds for complaint they should report this in line with this process.
A "vulnerable" adult is defined as a person aged 18 years or over who is or may be in need of community care services by reason of mental or other disability, age or illness, and who is or may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation.
What to do if you think a member of the AWL is behaving in an unacceptable way:
1) If you think a comrade is behaving in a way that is unacceptable it maybe helpful to write down the behaviour you are not happy about. If this involves bullying or harassment of any kind keep a diary of incidents, records of times and witnesses and your feelings.
2) If you feel you cannot resolve the issue by talking to the person directly or in writing or if the behaviour persists beyond this, talk with another AWL member of your choice, a trusted comrade. This may be an appointed welfare officer, but the choice is yours. This person can support and advise and can accompany you to talk to the person, or do this on your behalf, if this is appropriate.
3) If there is still no result, make an approach to your branch organiser. If the complaint is against your branch organiser or if they are not an appropriate person for another reason you should approach another branch organiser, or a National Committee (NC), Executive Committee(EC) or Disputes Committee(1) (DC) member.
4) Depending on the issues involved the person you approach will:
Initiate the informal procedure OR
Initiate the formal procedure.
They may also report the complaint to the Safeguarding Officer, as above.
The branch organiser/ NC / EC / DC member will conduct an informal investigation or will ask another comrade to do this.
The person leading the informal procedure will:
* be an experienced comrade
* agree to be independent between the parties, and
* be agreed with the complainant.
The informal investigation should attempt to establish the facts of what has happened, including the lead person speaking to the complainant, anyone accused and any witnesses.
After establishing the facts the investigator will try to resolve the situation, through discussion and possibly mediation.
Other comrades can be involved if the person leading thinks this would help and it is agreed by the parties.
If the issue cannot be resolved within an informal process the formal procedure can be used.
A report on the informal procedure and its outcome should be lodged with the Disputes Committee, and made available both to the complainant and to anyone accused.
Principles of the Formal Procedure
Given our lack of resources, our operational assumption should be that the formal process would be used in a very select number of possible circumstances.
These would be:
* where informal procedure has failed to resolve matters;
* cases of serious complaint that are not matters for the criminal justice system (e.g. systematic bullying);
* in serious matters (such as sexual harassment or abuse) where complainants do not wish to go to the police.
We will always conduct our own investigation whenever a complaint is made, while seeking to ensure that investigation does not interfere with any outstanding or possible future police investigation.
We are aware that in our society people who complain of sexual harassment or abuse are often subjected to victim blaming; we should consciously work against this. Our starting point is such complaints will be dealt with as any other kind of complaint — at face value.
We will not prioritise our public reputation over ensuring an open and fair process. If a public allegation is made against one of our comrades we will investigate and make a public statement outlining what action we intend to take. We will share information about that investigation as appropriate with the complainant.
Given our resources we do not believe we can replicate the best professional standards of investigation. We will make complainants and alleged perpetrators fully aware of this deficit at the beginning of any grievance process. We will seek whatever outside professional advice is deemed appropriate and within our resources at any stage.
Either party can request mediation at any stage.
In complaints of serious sexual or physical assaults against adults aged 18 and over we will support complainants in their choice of procedure, if that involves contacting the police or seeking professional help. We recognise, given the police's record in these matters, and for other reasons, complainants may chose not to go to the police.
If there are any concerns regarding any child or young person (under 18) it may be necessary to report these outside the organisation through the Safeguarding Appointed Person, even if this is against the wishes of the individual. In these instances confidentiality cannot be protected. However, we will always handle cases with sensitivity to the person making the complaint.
If at any stage it is decided that a more appropriate course of action should be followed (e.g. reporting to the police) this should also be done promptly.
Making a Formal Complaint
To initiate a formal investigation you should contact the Disputes Committee in writing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anonymous reporting or reporting of incidents without naming an accused person should be avoided. However, rights to confidentiality will be respected and information will be handled in a way which is compatible with keeping control with the person making the complaint.
Wherever possible a formal complaint should be made in writing within 30 days of the alleged conduct. We have no “statute of limitations” on complaints. Nonetheless it is better for comrades making complaints if this is done sooner.
They will be supported in all instances.
First Stages after a Formal Complaint is made
When a formal complaint is made to the DC, the EC as a whole must be informed at this stage at an EC meeting, respecting confidentiality if necessary. If the complaint is against an EC member, they should withdraw from those parts of EC business to do with managing the complaint, as listed below.
The EC, in consultation with the Disputes Committee, will take the necessary steps to ensure the proper functioning of the organisation after a complaint is made e.g. the parties may need to be kept apart; it may be appropriate to suspended someone from political activity (and paid suspension if the comrade works for the organisation). If the alleged perpetrator is to be suspended or “stood down” this should be done promptly and the reasons explained in writing.
An internal formal investigation is initiated by lodging written details of the allegation with the Disputes Committee.
The Disputes Committee (or alternates) should meet as soon as possible.
The DC will write to the alleged perpetrator outlining the allegations.
The complainant and the alleged perpetrator will have the right to and are strongly advised to have representation.
The DC will approach both parties about this.
Timescales for each stage will be set and both parties informed of these.
The DC will conduct a formal investigation, including:
Separately interviewing both the complainant and alleged perpetrator, where possible
The DC will interview any witnesses. Both parties will have the right to call witnesses to be interviewed by the DC.
The complainant will be supported through the process. Subsequent lines of investigation and questioning may need to test the evidence but will be compatible with the initial approach. None of this should contradict a fair process for all parties.
Records and details of meetings will be completely confidential, except that as below.
A final meeting of the DC will be held within 60 days of the complaint to discuss the complaint, investigation and outcome. This can take the form of a hearing with the DC and both parties present to give their point of view, separately if necessary.
The DC will write a report to the NC. Recommendations may Include:
* No case to answer
* Outside the competence of the DC
* Mediation – external if necessary
* Moving comrades' activity
* Disciplinary Procedures
In cases of a serious nature e.g. serious bullying, predatory sexual behaviour, sexual harassment, where the DC feel it would be useful or either party requests, the report should be open to confidential, independent scrutiny.
There will be an appeals procedure (open to both parties).
Parties will be consulted regarding records retained by the organisation, but in all cases the DC is responsible for keeping at least a minimal record of all cases it deals with and its conclusions on them. This record should be accessible to all DC members and alternates, to future DCs, and to the current and future ECs.
Preamble to Safeguarding Policy
Our project is to build an organisation of active revolutionaries who are able to think for themselves, play a role in educating themselves and each other and be prepared to fight for their ideas within the organisation and wider movement and often in hostile environments.
We aim to persuade young people of our ideas and to go out and fight for them. Some of this work is tough and can be at times “uncomfortable”.
We are concerned that our organisation does not infantilise young people as many institutions and organisations in capitalist society do. We strive to always treat them as thoughtful, capable young adults, while at the same time recognising that young people up to the age of 18 and vulnerable adults are special groups that require some specific safeguarding.
Below is a safeguarding policy defining what we mean by safeguarding and the procedures we will adhere to if there are concerns for under-18s and or vulnerable adults in the AWL.
This policy can only apply to our own events and surrounding social activities and to our members and participants at such events and activities. It cannot apply to non-members/supporters or participants at other events. It is distinct from support we give members/supporters in experiencing abuse in other organisations and environments (eg. bullying at work, in their trade union, from other left groups, or from parents, carers or partners).
This Safeguarding policy applies to all participants, volunteers, helpers, members, staff, including senior organisers and anyone working or volunteering on behalf of the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty
The purpose of this policy is:
* to protect young people (up to the age of 18 years old) and vulnerable adults who attend Alliance for Workers Liberty branches and events and participate in social activities around these meetings and events. For all other participants see the Code of Conduct.
* to provide volunteers and staff with the overarching principles that guide the Alliance for Workers Liberty’s approach to safeguarding and child protection.
What is safeguarding?
Safeguarding is the broader preventative and precautionary approach to planning and procedures that need to be in place to protect children and young people and vulnerable adults from any potential harm or damage. It is more than child protection, although child protection is one important aspect of safeguarding.
Child protection involves recognising signs of physical, sexual or emotional abuse or of neglect and acting on it.
The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty recognises that:
* the welfare of the child is paramount, as enshrined in the Children Act 1989
* all young people, regardless of age, disability, gender, racial heritage, religious belief, sexual orientation or identity, have a right to equal protection from all types of harm or abuse
* some young people and vulnerable adults are additionally vulnerable because of the impact of previous experiences, their level of dependency, communication needs or other issues
* working in partnership with young people and vulnerable adults and other agencies is essential in promoting young people’s and vulnerable adults welfare. Outside organisations may inform and influence our practice and procedures.
Our underlying safeguarding principle is that all young people and vulnerable adult members/supporters should be protected from abusive behaviours and attitudes that fit the following areas of abuse: physical, sexual and emotional.
To achieve this aim:
The needs of the young people are central to all activity planning they will be involved in. This should include where possible careful consideration of venues booked and used. Where under 18s are participating, we should avoid 18+ venues where possible.
Open communication with members of all ages and effective planning will support safeguarding of young people and vulnerable adults.
Anyone has the right to speak out about behaviour and attitudes they find uncomfortable within the three defined areas of abuse. They should know in advance whom they should speak to, and be confident they will be listened to
The Safeguarding Officer is responsible for seeing to it that sufficient organisers do basic safeguarding training (which can be completed online for free).
Risk assessments must be undertaken for work and activities planned involving young people and vulnerable adults, e.g. taking part in a potentially dangerous demonstration, sleeping arrangements at summer camp, particularly hostile political environments. This should not be done with a view to preventing anyone from participating but to consider what we can do as extra to help make participation as safe as possible.
Personal details of members are held securely in accordance with data protection policy.
The Safeguarding Officer and their Deputy will be appointed each year by the incoming National Committee [will be appointed on 12.1.19], and generally will be chosen from among members with safeguarding experience in their outside work. They are the first port of call for all safeguarding concerns, and responsible for overseeing and monitoring safeguarding across our activities.
Any member of the AWL aware of concerns regarding a child or young person (under 18) or vulnerable adult must report them as soon as feasibly possible to the Safeguarding Appointed Person, even if this is against the wishes of the individual.
If concerns regarding any child or young person (under 18) or vulnerable adult are reported to Branch Organisers, Executive Committee (EC) Members or Disputes Committee (DC) members at any stage of this process, they must report them as above.
If the concerns are about the Safeguarding Appointed Person they should be reported to the Deputy Safeguarding Appointed Person and to the DC and EC.
Safeguarding report (safeguarding officer December 2019)
Over the past year we have established a routine for our events ensuring there is a named safeguarding lead including at post event socials. We have compiled a central list of comrades with current Enhanced DBS checks, with recent and up to date level 2 and above Safeguarding training and we have developed two questionnaires relevant to the work we do for comrades to use to help develop their understanding and awareness around safeguarding issues.
Over the coming period we need a coordinated approach to getting comrades to complete and discuss the questionnaires.
Safeguarding needs to remain a priory consideration for us, it needs to become and remain ‘second nature’ to us in branches and at our events.
Note on the Disputes Committee:
The AWL Constitution describes the role of the Disputes Committee as follows (this text was amended at our 2018 Conference).
Conference will elect a Disputes Committee consisting of three people. They will not serve on the National Committee.
Membership of the Disputes Committee should be for a fixed term of two years. The organisation should ensure members have appropriate training. Three alternates should be elected at the same time as full members are elected (for situations of unavailability or potential conflicts of interest). If a member of the Disputes Committee is elected to the NC during their two-year term of office, a by-election will be held to replace them.
The role of the Disputes Committee will be:
* To investigate and adjudicate in complaints and disputes between members of the AWL at the request of a complainant or of one of the parties to the dispute
* To act for the National Committee or Executive Committee as an investigatory body. When it acts in this capacity it will report to the activating body.
-receive and investigate complaints against the leading committees or officers of the AWL on any matter of concern to any member of the AWL.
- present a report on any such investigation to the National Committee and, if it chooses, to present proposals and recommendations for action to the National Committee. Any proposal or recommendation from the Disputes Committee to the National Committee will be deemed to have a very strong moral authority. Where the Disputes Committee comes into irresolvable conflict with the National Committee on some matter which it considers of fundamental importance it will have the right to call a special AWL conference.
- censure, where it thinks fit, after proper investigation, any action of AWL committees, or any AWL officer, or any AWL member and present motions of censure to the National Committee.
* To present a report of its activities over the previous year to each annual conference of the AWL.
These policies are revisions and additions to existing policy and were made in the light of a report of an historical case of sexual assault and the process we put in place to investigate our actions on this matter. Details of that can be found here.