World

London Fire Brigade misogynist and racist


By BBC
Published : 26 Nov 2022 07:55 PM

A black firefighter had a noose put by his locker, while a female one received video of a colleague exposing himself.

The independent review was established by the London Fire Commissioner after a trainee firefighter took his own life in August 2020.

Commissioner Andy Roe said there was no place for discrimination, harassment and bullying in the brigade.

"From today it will be completely clear to all staff what behaviour isn't acceptable and what the consequences will be," he added.

Talking to the BBC, Mr Afzal said the report made for "grim reading".

"We've heard example after example about women who were harassed or sexually assaulted - constant sexual taunting to the point that I am now saying that the London Fire Brigade is institutionally misogynist," Mr Afzal said.

"In addition to the misogyny, there is an enormous amount of racism. One black man had a noose put up above his locker, another Muslim officer had bacon rolled on his plate before he ate.

"Women told us they were told [by male firefighters]: 'We want to get you out of here, we don't want you to be a fire officer.' It goes back to the whole fireman concept.

"I sat with a very senior female officer who said to me, through tears, that whenever she goes through a dangerous incident, she's always thinking: 'Will the men have my back? Will the men around me protect me given how they have treated me back at the station?

"If they feel they can't trust the men around them because of their behaviour or misbehaviour and worse, then they aren't safe and neither are we."

The report also found that while there was often "considerable sensitivity" in the brigade around issues of race, there appeared to be "a worrying blind spot" concerning misogyny and sexism.

One firefighter told the review that she advised her female friends not to let male firefighters in the house to give safety advice because "they go through women's drawers looking for underwear and sex toys".

The review recommends firefighters now wear body-worn video for home visits.

The behaviour of some brigade staff "left a clear trail of psychological harm", the report said.

Mr Afzal said the racism, misogyny and bullying identified within the LFB was far more widespread.

Speaking to the BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said he was approached by other fire brigades and organisations as he undertook the review.

"People telling me please, please come and have a look at my culture.

"I ask anyone who's rushing to judgement on London Fire Brigade to look in the mirror and look at themselves because they will see similar things happening.

"Their staff need the same support and protection that London Fire Brigade need to provide to theirs."

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said in a statement the report confirmed concerns it had raised over many years.

Gareth Cook, FBU's regional organiser for London, said morale and engagement at LFB was low.

He said 40% said they were frustrated in their job with staff shortages, no leave availability and poor work-life balance.

"The review has found that staff fear the consequences of speaking out as they fear the repercussions. That is entirely unacceptable and must change," he said.

He added: "We have raised concerns about many of the issues contained within this report historically and as a consequence we remain sceptical about the changes senior leaders will implement with regards to their own behaviours."

LFB Commissioner Mr Roe told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he was "horrified" and "heartbroken" to read the report.