A survey of Merseyside fire crews has found nearly all of them say bullying is a serious problem at work. Nearly one in nine had been bullied and two out of three say they are still being bullied. Nearly half of those who responded said it was happening on a daily basis. But only one in ten had confidence in using Merseyside fire service’s system for dealing with complaints about bullying.
The Fire Brigades Union, which carried out the survey between December 2006 and January 2007, say the findings are without precedent in a British workforce. The union has called for the fire authority to listen to the findings and for senior managers to join with the union to start a process of conciliation as rapidly as possible.
The survey’s respondent said there had been a steady rise from 2002 onwards which peaked sharply during the period of industrial action and became worse after the dispute was ended.
Those who responded said the bullying included threats of “punishment postings” – moving people to workplaces as distant as possible form their homes – threats, intimidation, shouting, abuse and humiliation. Some of the causes identified in the survey include poor management, inadequate training for managers and staff, stressed managers and staff shortages.
Les Skarratts, Merseyside FBU brigade secretary: “No survey of any British workforce has found bullying and intimidation at these levels. The survey found a fire service run by fear and threats and that is entirely wrong.
“It is entirely unacceptable to have a culture of bullying running through a workforce.
No level of bullying can be considered ‘normal’ in any workplace and certainly not in one where our lives and welfare depend so much on team working.
“The survey showed a sharp rise during and after our dispute with some managers appearing to think they are free to abuse, threaten and intimidate. That culture has to end and that can only come through the leadership of the fire authority making senior managers address the problem.”
A questionnaire was sent to nearly 1,000 FBU members on Merseyside between December 2006 and January 2007 and 400 responded by 20 January 2007.