Racing wants 'dragging into 21st Century

ALMOST half of all horseracing stable staff have experienced or witnessed bullying or sexual harassment in the work place, according to a report commissioned by the sport's governing body.

ALMOST half of all horseracing stable staff have experienced or witnessed bullying or sexual harassment in the work place, according to a report commissioned by the sport's governing body.

The British Horseracing Board(BHB) has published an independent report into the pay and working condition's of the nation's stable and stud staff, the majority of whom are based at Newmarket, which recommends a radical overhaul of racing industry practices.

Lord Donoughue, who chaired the Stable and Stud Staff Commission which produced the report, said: "Stable staff are involved in an old-fashioned industry, with low rewards, and are sometimes not treated with the recognition and respect that they deserve and need.

"It is an industry where the focus is on happy horses - we would like a little redress towards happy staff."

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The report revealed that not only had 48 per cent of staff questioned come into contact with bullying or sexual harassment, but many were overworked and underpaid, and put up with sub-standard racecourse accommodation, poor training and little or no overtime pay.

Pension provision was described as "abysmal", and the report commission noted that the most striking evidence was "the frequent complaints about lack of personal recognition and poor work culture."

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The report concluded: "The reality is that some staff have to contend with poor pay and long hours, inadequate training, scant recognition of their efforts and limited long-term career prospects.

"It's not enough to react to this with a shrug of the shoulders and the refrain 'that's racing'."

Instead the report commission proposed that a working group be established to consider its findings and implement the many recommended changes.

Although the report noted there were many examples of good practice in stables and stud farms across the country, with 88 per cent of respondents considering their yards a "a good place to work", it has met with a mixed response from the rest of the racing industry.

Peter Savill, chairman of the BHB, said: "The commission has identified a number of areas where action is required to ensure that the racing and breeding industries attract, train, and retain sufficient skilled staff to meet their needs.

"The board is supportive of the broad conclusions of the commission and has today approved the commission's important recommendation that a small working group of industry and independent representatives be established immediately to consider, and as appropriate, implement its recommendations."

Steve Carroll, travelling head lad to leading trainer Sir Michael Stoute, who is regarded as one of the best employers in racing, welcomed the report but said it remained to be seen whether it would have any real influence.

"There are a lot of good points made in the report, but there have been reports before, we need to make sure it isn't just forgotten in a few weeks time," he said.

"Basically the industry wants dragging into the 21st century, but nobody can realistically expect everything to change over night, we need to take ten or so key points, such as accommodation, and try and concentrate on them over the next year or two and then revisit the situation."

He said the report wasn't specific enough about bullying and harassment but he did not think it was as prevalent as had been suggested.

A spokesman for the Jockey Club, which controls the rules of racing and is responsible for licensing trainers, said: "We would welcome anything which improves the lot of stable and stud staff, with regard to the issues which need to be resolved, there are a lot of positive things to come out of the report and some very positive recommendations which will go some way to achieving that."

The National Trainers Federation(NTF), while noting several cases of "inaccuracy or misleading phraseology" was broadly supportive of the report.

A spokesman for the NTF said: "Overall we believe the main thrust of the commission's recommendations are helpful and recognise that they are intended as a means of modernising and improving the standards of employment in the racing industry to the ultimate benefit of the sport."

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