Thursday, April 10, 2014

Troubles Brewing at Top Think Tank SIPRI?

Trouble seems to be brewing at one of the world's top think tanks - Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

There are suggestions floating around that the work environment at the Stockholm, Sweden-based think tank is so bad that it could actually be closed. [SIPRI, founded in 1966, also has offices in Beijing and Washington, DC.]

This is from one post (Think Tank Watch could not immediately verify the authenticity of the content):
Many employees at peace research institute SIPRI are suffering from stress, sleeping problems, anxiety, high blood pressure and suicidal thoughts, according to [trade unions] ST and SACO-S [which organize around 85% of the employees at SIPRI.] The trade unions have therefore put the foundation under so called special protection measures.

"If the demands are not met, the workplace could be closed," said ST Press Secretary Sofia Johansson.

She states that the special protection measures involve demands for systematic efforts to improve the work environment, and to deal with specific identified problems.

According to the union, employees at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, which employs about 50 people at its Solna office, have experienced degrading and discriminatory treatment, and there have been no improvements since the previous work environment survey.

Here is a letter from the Swedish trade union ST describing the situation in a bit more detail.  It says, among other things, that there have been 25 cases of staff turnover in the past year, out of a total of around 50 employees.  Some details:
ST and SACO-S organize around 85% of the employees at SIPRI. We have been contacted by the local elected officials about an unsustainable work environment situation that has gone on for the past year and has now escalated. We believe that the employer has breached its responsibility to carry out systematic Work Environment Work according to AFS 2001:01 and has not observed its rehabilitation responsibilities under the Social Insurance Code 2010110. Despite the fact that the employer has been aware of the problem they have not taken forward appropriate measures and the work environment has powerfully worsened.

We are deeply concerned about the work environment situation at SIPRI and demand today that Special Protective Measures be taken forward in accordance with Chapter 6 Section 6 of the Work Environment Law. This may also involve us closing the workplace since there is a danger to our members’ life and health. We would like to draw particular attention to the fact that there is more than one person at SIPRI with suicidal thoughts. This is alarming, and if it is not dealt with in a professional manner, we fear that it could become a bigger catastrophe than what happened in Krokom municipality.[1]

During a joint meeting with ST and SACO-S members on April 2nd, we carried out a simple work environment survey using a 12-question questionnaire. Our goal was to gain an understanding of how the work environment at SIPRI operates, and to try to understand the problems. Below is a summary of the results. There were 26 respondents to the survey.

- 16 of the 26 respondents states that they had experienced degrading or discriminatory treatment in various forms. Of these, 14 stated that the Director had behaved in an intimidating manner.
- 22 of the 26 respondents suffer from stress-related problems (manifesting itself in for example sleep problems, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, miscarriage, high blood pressure, pressure in the chest, and others). These cases are directly related to the Director’s treatment of staff
- 23 of the 26 choose to a great extent to work from home whenever possible because of the work environment at the workplace, rather than to take sick leave.
- 24 of the 25 have experienced no improvement since the last work environment survey, but rather the opposite.
- All 26 respondents are actively seeking other employment due to the work environment at SIPRI (some are ready to resign even if they don’t have a new job).

Of the 25 cases of staff turnover in the past year, out of around 50 total employees, several of the terminated employments can be directly linked to the Director’s actions.

The letter goes on to say that the director of SIPRI is the main source of the work environment problem at the think tank.

Think Tank Watch could not immediately identify the authenticity or content of the letter, which Think Tank Watch first saw thanks to the kind tip by think tank expert Hans Gutbrod.

SIPRI is probably most well-known for its annual SIPRI Yearbook which details armaments, disarmament, and international security issues.

SIPRI was just ranked as the 5th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the 3rd best non-US think tank.