Mark Harper says ‘no need’ for a national inquiry into sexism and racism

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A government minister has dismissed calls for a national review into misogyny and racism in the workplace after a damning review by the London Fire Brigade (LFB) was released this week.

An independent cultural analysis of the organization found “a dangerous level of ingrained prejudice against women” while colleagues from minority backgrounds were “frequently the target of racist attacks”.

Shocking incidents revealed in the report included someone placing a dummy noose over a black firefighter’s locker and a Muslim colleague who felt “suicidal” after staff stuffed pork sausages in his pockets and repeatedly labeled him a terrorist had designated.

One firefighter told the review the threshold for bullying is so high that “you’d have to put someone’s eyes out to get fired,” adding, “Anything else is considered a hoax.”

She said she told her friends not to let male firefighters into their homes to check smoke detectors because she says they go through women’s drawers looking for underwear and sex toys.

After the report was published, Mr Afzal called for a “national inquiry” into other public bodies and said he had been approached with similar concerns by staff from the NHS, the BBC, the military and the police.

“We’re not talking about a tiny eruption, a tiny eruption there,” he said.

“This is a national pandemic issue that requires a national pandemic-style response.”

A firefighter from the London Fire Brigade speaks to the Sector Commander during an emergency response following an explosion in a shop basement in North London, UK. The London Fire Brigade is the fourth largest fire service in the world. As of 2012 there were 257 female firefighters in the London Fire Brigade. In March 2007, the proportion of female firefighters in the UK was 3.1%. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

A review of workplace culture at London Fire Brigade revealed institutional levels of toxic misogyny and racial bullying (Image: Getty)

But when asked about the prospect by Sky’s Sophy Ridge, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “I don’t think you want every organization across the country where there hasn’t been a specific event, launching all investigations everywhere.

“But I think all organizational leaders should look at this report and think about whether this could be happening in their organization and if they think it might be the case, then think about what they need to do to make sure.” that this is not the case.”

The review was created in response to the death of firefighter Jaden Francois-Esprit, who took his own life in August 2020.

It contained 23 recommendations, took 10 months to create and was based on the experiences of hundreds of employees.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock (13639452as) Secretary of State for Transport MARK HARPER is seen outside the BBC as he appears with Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday. Mark Harper on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, London, England, UK - November 27, 2022

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said there was “no need” for a nationwide review of racism and workplace bullying following the release of the explosive report (Image: Shutterstock).

Speaking of the results, Mr. Harper said: “Frankly, they were absolutely appalling. I worked in business before I got into politics and that behavior would not be acceptable in any workplace.

“This investigation was triggered by a specific case involving the tragic suicide of a person who took their own life as a result of bullying. I don’t know of any similar examples elsewhere.”

He commended London Fire Services Commissioner Andy Roe for accepting the report’s findings, saying it was the “kind of leadership you want”.

Mr Roe said at a briefing at LFB headquarters on Saturday: “We will take a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment and discrimination.

“What that means when we think about the immediate steps is that I expect people to be fired as a result of this report.

“Of course there are some disturbing examples of how we have betrayed public trust in this report.”

Asked how many people could lose their jobs, he added: “If we find you have behaved in the way highlighted in this report there is no place for you in the London Fire Brigade.

“In a way, I don’t care about the numbers.”

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Justin Scacco

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