Due to a number of serious incidents including the suicides of two serving firefighters, allegations of bullying and intimidation, and ongoing and protracted industrial disputes, the local Fire Authority agreed to an independent review of the culture of Essex FRS.
The review, undertaken by Irene Lucas CBE, explored the historical and current culture within the service, providing a report outlining a range of practical recommendations. It looked at how the culture of the Fire and Rescue Service in Essex was having a detrimental impact on the organisation, its employees and the communities it serves. The report contains over a dozen recommendations which are practical steps to be taken to move the organisation towards one that is fit for purpose to deal with the challenges it faces.
The report is available here and I would strongly encourage you to read the document in full. The reason being that while this report focuses on Essex, there are numerous similarities that can be made with a large number of FRS across the country.
There has been a bullying culture within a number of FRS across the country, we know this because even now we are having to deal with cases that include such unwarranted and unacceptable behaviour towards our members. Services are awash with Core Values and Policies that allow them to be outwardly perceived by the public as a model employer, however, experience proves that this is anything but the case.
It doesn’t make for pleasant reading for the FBU either which is probably why they have been quiet on the subject.
Let us not forget the CLG report that was published in 2008 which confirmed that such behaviour was being experienced by a third of respondents to a recent survey.
As an organisation we have for a number of years been calling for all allegations of bullying and harassment by fire service personnel to be investigated independently of the fire service and we are pleased to read that this is one of the key recommendations contained in the report. We very much hope that this will be adopted by ALL services across the UK and begin the process of genuinely taking a zero-tolerance stance towards such behaviour.
We would be pleased to hear from anyone who wishes to share in confidence their experiences on such matters, to raise awareness that this is not isolated to Essex.
Big Challenges Ahead
Both Norfolk and Hampshire Fire & Rescue Services, whose fire cover is predominately provided by Retained Firefighters, are this week putting forward to their respective Fire Authorities, proposals that could cost the jobs of 100s of Retained Firefighters and in the case of Norfolk, close a number of Retained Fire Stations.
As a modern organisation, we fully understand that savings have to be made but it is the method in which they are achieved that is disappointing. We believe that there are alternative ways of achieving the required savings without having the detrimental impact on our members as is currently being proposed and we will be putting these proposals forward to elected members in due course.
Now comes the crunch. If you are already a member of the RFU you will have the opportunity to play a full and active role in securing your future within the service as a Retained Firefighter.
However, if you are not a member of the RFU, you will need to ask yourself the question of who will be representing your best interests as a Retained Firefighter. Who will be fighting your corner, without any conflicts of interest?
If you are a member of the RFU and want to assist the local committee in their efforts to save members’ jobs, you can contact RFU HQ on 01953 455005 or email.
If you are not currently a member of the RFU and would like to join, you can do so here for immediate protection, if your station would like a visit from the RFU, this too can be facilitated either side of your drill night, you can request a visit by contacting RFU HQ.
Don’t leave it too late!!