Fire union set up sections due to ‘discrimination, harassment and inequality’

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has acknowledged ‘extremely alarming’ reported incidents of racism and misogyny.

Firefighters industrial action
Firefighters industrial action

A firefighters’ union has said it set up different sections for ethnic minority, women and LGBT members due to “discrimination, harassment and inequality” in fire services.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has acknowledged “extremely alarming” reported incidents of racism and misogyny, saying there is “no place for such behaviour or attitudes”.

It comes after an independent culture review of London Fire Brigade (LFB).

Led by Nazir Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor for the North West, the review found “dangerous levels of ingrained prejudice against women”, while colleagues from minority backgrounds were “frequently the target of racist abuse”.

Gareth Cook, of the union, said in response: “The FBU includes organised sections for black and ethnic minority members, for women members and for LGBT members.

“These sections were created because of discrimination, harassment and inequality within our industry and our union. We will ensure our equality sections are fully involved in any fuller response to this LFB report.

“The FBU has policies in place to address issues of discrimination and harassment. This can include (after due process) the removal of representation from individuals accused of such acts. It can also include disciplinary processes through the FBU itself.

“Both of these have been implemented in such cases in the recent past. We shall review the effectiveness of our rules and policies in the light of issues raised and of issues we have identified ourselves.

“The FBU, along with other trade unions, is already engaged in major work on the issue of sexual harassment. This includes issues in the workplace and also, if identified, within our own organisation. We have been working with the TUC and with the FBU women’s section on this for some time and will bring forward changes to policies and structures as required.”

Bonfire night
(Niall Carson/PA)

The FBU said it has “raised concerns” about many of the issues within the report, but remains “sceptical” about the changes senior leaders will implement.

It said the aim is to “improve the working conditions” of members and “protect them from discrimination and unfair or illegal treatment” by representing them in the workplace.

London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe told the PA news agency on Saturday: “I think my reply to colleagues in the union who have shared concerns about the culture over many years and indeed have raised concerns is that this is the first time that we have conducted an exercise like this.

“I commissioned this report, because I wanted to know the scale and the depth of the problem and that gives us a platform for absolute change and they will be able to see the immediate action we’re taking from this point onwards.”

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