17/02/2009

Homophobia In The Fire & Rescue Service Is Unacceptable: Sadiq Khan

The Fire Minister Sadiq Khan and the Fire & Rescue Service's associations and unions joined forces today urging all Fire and Rescue Services to sign up to the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme.

In a letter to every Fire and Rescue Service in England the Minister encouraged chief fire officers to take action to tackle inequality and homophobia by joining Stonewall's Programme.

Fire Minister Sadiq Khan said: "If we are to attract and recruit the best people to the Fire and Rescue Service from the widest pool of talent then all must know that they are welcome, that there is equality of opportunity and they will be treated with dignity and respect. Their sexual orientation is an irrelevance.

"A survey of Fire & Rescue Service staff commissioned by the Government and published last year showed that gay people have experienced homophobia in the workplace. My message is clear - such attitudes are not acceptable in the 21st century. Bullying, harassment and discrimination have no place in the modern Fire and Rescue Service; these behaviours will not be tolerated and I expect to see them eradicated.

"Twenty of England's Fire and Rescue Services have already joined the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme and in doing so have made clear their commitment to positively promote issues of sexuality. However, I want to see real progress, with all 46 Services signed up to real cultural change."

The Diversity Champions Programme promotes understanding and provides good practice guidance around issues of sexual orientation in the workplace. Membership provides access to good practice sharing, networking opportunities and research.

Twenty of the 46 Fire and Rescue Services in England are currently members of the Stonewall Programme.

Communities and Local Government will work in partnership with the Service's key stakeholders to encourage support for the Programme from the remaining 26 Fire & Rescue Services.

The co-signatories are Stonewall, the Local Government Association, the Chief Fire Officers' Association, the Fire Brigades Union, UNISON, the Asian Fire Service Association, the Fire Officers' Association, the GMB, the National Disabled Fire Association, Networking Women in the Fire Service, and the Retained Firefighters Union.

(JM/BMcC)

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