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Fire Brigades Union announces plan to tackle sexual harassment


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Fire Brigades Union endorses initial action plan to address sexual harassment

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has announced a comprehensive plan aimed at tackling sexual harassment within its ranks.

At a meeting of the union’s Executive Council, officials voted to endorse an ‘initial action plan’, which is set to include mandatory training for all union officials on sexual harassment, the creation of safe spaces, and an annual equalities audit among other measures.

A full plan to be adopted by summer

Following thorough discussions at the FBU conference in May, a full plan is expected to be adopted by the summer.

This initiative is a response to a report by independent consultants Laura Harrison and Robert Wishart, which was proactively commissioned by the FBU leadership after evaluating internal discussions and investigations into unions such as the GMB, TSSA, and Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Report findings and union’s commitment

The report, which involved a detailed survey completed by all women and all black and minority ethnic members of the union, along with a random selection of other members, did not find misconduct by senior national officials but indicated that sexual harassment was a concern at lower levels within the union.

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary, expressed the union’s stance against sexual harassment: “Sexual harassment has no place in the trade union movement, or in society more broadly.

“The Fire Brigades Union stands with the victims of this behaviour, just as it stands on the side of everyone facing discrimination and oppression.

“Today’s announcement is a key moment in our campaign to root any sexual harassment out of the FBU and the fire and rescue service more widely.

“It was and is clear that sexual harassment is a serious issue in both the fire service and in the trade union movement. We knew that we would not be immune.

“We took the step of commissioning an independent report because we wanted to uncover the unvarnished truth, and because we are determined to combat sexual harassment in all its forms.

“The findings of the report are serious, and we are fully committed to addressing them.

“I would like to pay tribute to the FBU’s national women’s committee, who have played such a crucial role in pushing this work forward.

“The union’s equality sections will be at the heart of what we do on this issue.”

Robyn Richardson, Fire Brigades Union national women’s committee secretary, highlighted the significance of the union’s actions: “As recent reports have highlighted, sexual harassment is a significant issue for many women in the fire and rescue service, and while the findings of today’s independent report are not surprising, they are sobering.

“It is positive that we have as a union taken a proactive approach to uncovering sexual harassment, and now it is time to root it out. Today’s action plan is the start of that.

“The FBU national women’s committee will play a central role in shaping the union’s campaigning, but it is the duty of every firefighter to speak up and call out sexual harassment where they see it.”

IFSJ Comment

The Fire Brigades Union’s initiative to tackle sexual harassment through an ‘initial action plan’ is a positive step towards fostering a safe and inclusive environment for all its members.

By taking proactive measures, including mandatory training and the establishment of safe spaces, the FBU demonstrates its commitment to combating discrimination and promoting equality within the fire and rescue service.

This plan, following the revelations of an independent report, signals the union’s dedication to transparency and accountability.

It is a testament to the importance of collective action and the crucial role that equality sections play in driving change.

As the FBU moves forward with its comprehensive strategy, it sets a precedent for other organisations in addressing similar challenges.

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