The issue of racism and misogyny has been uncovered in the London fire brigade. However, the report author suggests these issues could be widespread across dozens of other public institutions. Nazir Afzal, a former chief prosecutor who carried out the study says the systemic failings in the service has been put on notice.
Afzal called for a national inquiry into other public bodies, saying he has been approached by several people who work for them.
The independent report into the London fire brigade includes the anonymous accounts of more than 2,000 staff members detailing abuse by co-workers, including from a black firefighter who had a noose placed above his locker and a Muslim colleague who had bacon and sausages stuffed in his pockets. Female firefighters reported being groped, beaten and having their helmets filled with urine.
Speaking at a briefing for media at the headquarters of the London fire brigade Afzal said he had been contacted by employees across a range of prominent institutions including the NHS, BBC and various police forces. He called for a national inquiry to address these concerns, particularly of misogyny.
“These organisations are pivotal to British society yet people within them are seriously concerned about the way they are being treated in these organisations. There are 43 police forces with problems,” Afzal said.
The London fire commissioner, Andy Roe, told the briefing that five years of complaints and allegations about bullying and harassment would be passed to an external organisation to be looked at.
Roe said he expected some LFB staff would be dismissed following the examination of these complaints and expected to see more complaints emerge. He added: “We are going to take a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and harassment and discrimination.”
The report, titled Independent Cultural Review of London Fire Brigade, was published after a 12-month period in which six experts visited stations and gathered submissions from staff at all levels. While more than 4,500 of the London fire brigade’s 5,000 staff are firefighters, only 425 are women and slightly more than 500 are from ethnic minorities.