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In a dramatic intervention at its annual conference in Blackpool, the Fire Brigades Union has launched its own drive to tackle discrimination in the Fire Service.
Recent reports have shown that racism, homophobia and misogyny are “routinely ignored, or even instigated, by people at the very top” of the service, the FBU said.
The stark warning comes in the wake of a series of reports that highlighted discrimination in the service. FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said that firefighters had been “repeatedly failed” and that some are “scared to speak out”.
Widespread bullying and abuse were highlighted in the London Fire Brigades Independent Culture Review in November and in a report by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services in March.
However, Wrack said that firefighters had lost faith in Chief Fire Officers or the Government to end the abuse after decades of failure on the issue.
Instead, the Fire Brigades Union has unveiled plans to investigate the sector itself, and to tackle discrimination, harassment and bullying of firefighters.
At the FBU annual conference in Blackpool, Wrack set out the union’s plan to create its own set of reforms for the sector, and a strategy to fight for their implementation.
A poster campaign, aimed at changing the conversation around discrimination in the Fire and Rescue Service, was also unveiled.
Announcing the plan, Fire Brigades Union General Secretary Matt Wrack said:
“The public are right to be shocked at revelations in recent months.
“The values of the Fire Service should be about respect, comradeship and having each other’s back. Firefighting is a well-respected, humanitarian profession.
“But the issues of discrimination and harassment must be addressed.
“This crisis is the product of failings that go to the very top of the Fire Service. The government and Chief Fire Officers and have systematically failed to address the issue of equalities over decades and especially since 2010, when central government dropped its drive for equality and handed all control to local Chief Officers and local politicians.
“Reports have shown how racism, homophobia and misogyny are routinely ignored, or even instigated, by people at the very top. Firefighters have been repeatedly failed, and some are scared to speak out.
“Putting the same leadership in charge of rescuing this situation would be entrusting the situation to the people who created the mess in the first place.”
Wrack added: “Today, we are announcing our intention to lead the drive for equality in the Fire and Rescue Service. As the democratic union representing the overwhelming majority of the workforce, we are the only body capable of running an effective campaign.
“The Fire Brigades Union will launch its own set of standards on equalities, and will hold Fire Services to account against these.
“We will also look to change behaviour directly in the Fire Service, and are launching a nationwide poster campaign in Fire Stations.”
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