CBI allegation of rape ‘shocking’, says shadow labor minister

The rape and sexual harassment allegations at the CBI are “totally shocking” the Labor shadow minister as companies continue to cut ties with lobbying groups.

Dozens of companies have said they are leaving the group or suspending membership due to the allegations. The CBI said it would suspend major activities until June while it attempts to “refocus”. However, some business leaders have said that the CBI brand is “beyond repair.” The lobby group was shocked when a second woman claimed she was raped by CBI colleagues in a Guardian article Friday. Police were investigating allegations of rape at a CBI summer party in 2019, before The Guardian reported a second incident. Another sexual harassment allegation was raised.

On Sunday, Shadow Work and Pensions Minister Jonathan Ashworth did not call for the group to dissolve, but instead said burgeoning reforms were needed. “Revelation, the story is just shocking, isn’t it?” he said. “I express my condolences to the people who were affected.” He added that the group had “obviously deep-rooted problems” and needed a “root review and reform process”.

Both the government and the Labour Party have cut ties with the CBI for now. A waves of firms has withdrawn support from the lobbying group. Firms that have quit include: John Lewis, BMW, Virgin Media O2, Vodafone, insurers Aviva, Zurich and Phoenix Group, banking firm Natwest, payments company Mastercard; B&Q owner Kingfisher; media firm ITV; insurance marketplace Lloyds of London; investment firm Schroders; auditor EY; catering giant Compass; consultants Accenture; and outsourcing giant Capita.

The Association of British Insurers and the British Insurance Brokers’ Association have also left, as has Energy UK, which represents energy suppliers. Organisations that have suspended membership include: pharmaceutical giants GSK and AstraZeneca; airports operator Heathrow; retailers Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Marks & Spencer; banking group Santander; National Grid, Octopus Energy and Scottish Power; drinks giant Diageo; Rolls Royce; Unilever; BT; property company British Land; accountancy giant PwC; Manpower Group; British Beer and Pub Association; Shell and BP; Nissan; Royal Mail; Uber; Facebook owner Meta; Paddy Power owner Flutter Entertainment; Nurofen maker Reckitt; British American Tobacco; and FTSE 100 hotel group IHG which owns Holiday Inn.

The CBI, which employs more than 300 people, said Friday it would suspend core operations and begin reviewing future roles. Andy Wood, head of Adnams Brewery, told the BBC on Saturday that the CBI brand would be “beyond repair” and would have to be “reinvented from roots and branches”.

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