London Fire Brigade vowed a “zero tolerance approach to discrimination” following damning criticism – Copyright AFP/Eduardo Leal Archive
The union representing UK firefighters said on Saturday it was “skeptical” that leaders of the London Fire Brigade (LFB) would implement reforms after an independent review found the service to be institutionally misogynistic and racist.
The LFB pledged a “zero tolerance approach to discrimination, harassment and bullying” and accepted around two dozen recommendations from the sentencing review led by former prosecutor Nazir Afzal.
It uncovered dozens of examples of racism, bullying, and misogyny, including a firefighter’s helmet that filled with urine and a black employee who found a noose on top of her locker.
In their response, the Firemen’s Union, the fire union and other personnel, noted that they had “expressed concerns about many of the issues contained in this report historically.”
Gareth Cook, its regional organizer for London, said the union was “committed to working to address these serious concerns” but “we remain skeptical of any changes senior leaders will make to their own behaviours.”
“Our goal is to improve the working conditions of our members and protect them from discrimination and unfair or illegal treatment by representing them in the workplace,” he said.
London Fire Commissioner Andy Roe apologized on Friday night “for the damage caused” after The Sunday Times leaked the content of the report.
The service’s response includes launching an external complaints system and piloting the use of body cameras for when staff meet the public for home fire safety visits.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan called the review “a defining moment” and the findings “abhorrent”.
It demanded “significant and necessary changes to root out all those responsible for sexism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, bullying or harassment, and to support staff members to speak up.”
The report has echoes of the 1999 Macpherson inquiry into London’s Metropolitan Police, following the racist murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence.
That report condemned the force for “institutional racism.”
A quarter century later, the Met is still grappling with issues of racial and gender bias, amid a recent spate of allegations of sexual misconduct and discrimination.