‘Mistreated’ fire service staff tell of bullying and inequality

Firefighters fighting burning blaze.

Firefighters fighting burning blaze. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

‘Insufficient’ mental health support and an ‘ingrained’ culture of bullying is being suffered by staff of Avon Fire and Rescue Service, according to a scathing review.

Another ‘uncomfortable’ report into the fire service, in which staff told of being ‘mistreated’, has been published – as the organisation attempts to rebuild after receiving scathing criticism from the Government in 2017.

A Home Office probe into the service exposed ‘cultural failings’ after staff aired allegations of bullying and management issues.

The fallout saw the service’s Chief Fire Officer Kevin Pearson suspended – who died following a short illness a year ago – as consultant Dr Craig Baker called for changes to leadership following his investigation.

The service commissioned an independent ‘cultural review’ to gauge the morale and views of employees, which was published on November 29. The survey, which was conducted by leadership and psychology consultants The Glass Lift, saw some staff complain of bullying and a lack of empathy or praise.

Bosses who oversee the service have promised to dedicate ‘compassion, commitment and time’ to address the issues raised.

The Glass Lift identified four key themes emanating from the responses relating to management style, staff feeling over-stretched, the dominance of wholetime workforce, and professional pride.

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Staff spoke of a ‘strongly controlling environment’ and ‘dominant command style’, with one respondent saying ‘bullying is ingrained at a higher level’.

‘Deep concerns’ were raised about the impact of the job on mental health, with counselling services labelled ‘insufficient’.

On-call staff said they feel ‘second-class and overlooked’, and women said they ‘have to work harder to be considered equal’.

The report did find professional pride is common ‘despite the negative views’, with colleagues ‘developing camaraderie and a family-type bond’.

Chief Fire Officer Mick Crennell admitted the review makes ‘uncomfortable reading’.

He said: “The cultural review has helped unpick what staff think. I understand there is no quick fix to this and changing a culture requires compassion, commitment and ultimately time.

“It will take considerable investment in order to resolve the concerns raised.”