North West CBI director expresses sorrow for staff caught in organisation’s plight

Damian Waters

North West CBI director, Damian Waters, has expressed his heartfelt sorrow towards colleagues embroiled in the current legal and reputational issues facing the employers’ organisation.

Police are aware of two claims of rape linked to CBI events and former director general, Tony Danker, was dismissed with immediate effect earlier this month over complaints about his conduct in the workplace.

Danker has apologised for his behaviour but is considering legal action following his dismissal.

Consequently, the organisation, which acts as a bridge between member companies and the Government, is hemorrhaging members as companies either resign or pause their involvement. The Government has suspended contact with the CBI.

Among members to have fled the CBI are supermarket group Asda, motor manufacturer BMW, business adviser EY and the John Lewis Partnership. Companies which have paused their membership include drugs giant AstraZeneca, energy group BP, TV group ITV, and Lloyds Bank.

Such actions place the very survival of the organisation in serious doubt.

Yesterday, CBI president, Brian McBride, said in a letter to members that the organisation had “made mistakes” and “badly let down” its staff.

He acknowledged that the CBI, which employs around 300 staff, will have to be slimmed down due to its reduced finances.

This afternoon (April 24), North West CBI regional director, Damian Waters, posted a notice on the LinkedIn platform, saying: “I am truly sorry for all of my colleagues who are caught up in this terrible set of events and who have done nothing wrong. They have continued to be the dedicated professionals they have always been, but they are hurting, we are all hurting.

“I hope the CBI can rebuild the trust that it has lost, we are working every hour to ensure we do so.

“But mostly I hope that my truly wonderful colleagues can heal, can be supported, and can recover.”

He said: “Today, when I tell people that I have been at the CBI for 25 years I get one of three reactions. Younger colleagues (there’s an increasing number who weren’t even born when I joined) look at me as if I have three heads, most people will smile and say ‘wow’, and a smaller group will say ‘well done’.

“The thing that they all have in common is they will ask ‘why?’ Why have I stayed at the same organisation for a quarter of a century.

“The answer is ‘the people.’ In my 25 years I have worked with many dedicated, bright, supportive and caring people.

“It is a cliché to say that your colleagues feel like a family, but at the CBI that has been my experience. We have shared in births, marriages and sadly deaths. We have shared happy times and sad times. We have celebrated each other’s successes and supported each other when things haven’t gone how we had hoped.

“It is devasting (sic) to know that some of those people have suffered horrendous experiences. I cannot begin to imagine how horrific that has been for them, and I am truly sorry that they have suffered.”

Earlier today, City boss, Baroness Helena Morrissey, chair of Manchester investment platform AJ Bell, told the BBC that she believes the CBI is “finished”.

She said the CBI’s dismissal of several staff members is “too little, too late”, and went on to question why more members have not severed ties with the organisation, saying: “I don’t quite understand why people don’t come out and say: ‘We’re going to join those who have decided to leave and we’ll work out what we’re going to do in replacement of the CBI’, because I feel they will be on the wrong side of history.”

Emma Degg, chief executive of the North West Business Leadership Team said: “To suggest that the current situation should be an existential threat to the CBI is dangerous. Robust, honest, and well-connected representation for businesses of all sizes is crucial in building the relationships we need – we need more of it not less.

“Here in the North West, Regional Director Damian Waters is a crucial part of our ecosystem, working with leaders of a wide range of business representative organisations including the NWBLT. Our work together is significant – we all benefit from sharing real time intelligence and data with each other. The CBI does not just support its own members, but also strengthens the cause of relationship building between policy makers and businesses across the North West.”