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Exclusive: LGBT delegates leave Fire Brigades Union conference after voting rights removed

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  1. The LGBT section of the FBU have fought a long, hard and courageous battle to improve equality in the fire service – which had even worse homophobia than the police!

    The modern fire service is a much improved organisation.

    However, this vote sends a signal by the leaders of the FBU that they do not value equality and they do not wish to engage in ensuring diversity and equality.

    If the fire service were an utopia of diversity and fairness then perhaps it would not be necessary to ensure LGBT, female and other representation. Whilst there have been improvements – it is no fantasy island of equality and understanding. Therefore, until LGBT people and women are fully respected then special attention needs to be paid to the message that these groups have and the needs they have.

    The FBU are saying the voices of LGBT people are irrelevant – and that is shameful for an organisation seeking to represent an entire workforce. Disgraceful and arrogant.

  2. That There Other David 20 Jun 2012, 6:05pm

    Without anything in place to ensure that the voices of women, ethnic and LGBT firefighters and support staff are heard this is a massive step backwards. Whilst the various brigades across the country have made big strides in the past decade there’s still a lot of work to do.

    So, FBU members, what are you going to replace these council seats with? If the answer is nothing you should hang your heads in shame.

  3. GulliverUK 20 Jun 2012, 6:26pm

    A possible solution is to form a separate committee covering all matters which related to LGBT, women and ethnic minorities, say, 8 seats. ALL 8 seats would be available only to LGBT, women and ethnic minorities, and thus on those issues, balance will be restored, because the experts in those areas will make the policy.

    This ^ would keep minority groups within the FBU, but allow the main committee to vote on all general matters, except anything to with LGBT, women or ethnic minorities, on which they would have no say.

    There. That’s more democratic — we don’t want majority groups having voting rights on minority issues now do we! :)

    1. Spanner1960 22 Jun 2012, 10:58pm

      It might be a good suggestion, but is it democratic?
      Who or how do you actually define as a “minority”? Gays, ethnics, disabled?
      Or maybe women, over 40’s or people wearing glasses?
      At what point do you draw this ‘line in the sand’?

  4. Dennis Velco 20 Jun 2012, 6:39pm

    Thanks for this article and your reporting. I just booked marked you as a new source as I curate global LGBT news & resources and group moderator.  What you do is appreciated.

    As an adoptive parent .. Thank you for being first open to a home for children and then being open to allowing the world to really see you. Thank you. You all are nothing less than beautiful.

    Thanks for this article and your reporting. I just booked marked you as a new source as I curate global LGBT news & resources and group moderator.  What you do is appreciated.

    I posted it to my LGBT Group on LinkedIn to spur members to read your article and to make comment. I also scooped it at Scoop.It on my LGBT Times news mashup.

    Link to group >>

    All LGBT+ and community allies…. please come join me and 14,000 of your soon to be great friends on LinkedIn. The member base represents 80% of the world’s countries.

  5. We know the anti-gay Christians in the fire department were down on gays but this is going too far, taking away another persons rights just because of what they do in their own bedrooms is madness. It has nothing to do with putting out a fire. More anti-gay Christian politics and muscle flexing by the top few evil anti-gay Christians who are pushing their agendas.

    1. Never been aware of a vocal religious element of the Fire Service!

      Religion can pollute and damage LGBT rights, but not convinced there is much involvement in the fire service!

  6. WTF?!

  7. All they were trying to do was stop LGBT, women’s and BME groups having more of a voice than straight white men. It’s an issue of democracy. The union membership voted for this.

    1. THE FBU’s own consultation document on the changes of structure and rules, itself states:

      “Our Equality Sections have helped the Union lead the way in ensuring the workforce within the Fire and Rescue Service better reflects the communities we serve. They have helped to ensure that our workplaces, in general, are far more welcoming to workers from under-represented groups than they were in the past and more comfortable places to work for all our members.”


      “provide an invaluable support and advice network for members from under-represented groups experiencing, prejudice, bullying, harassment and discrimination”

      Yet, there is no detail as to how this invaluable support can continue to be provided in a new structure within the document and only vague reference to any efforts to ensure that the Fire Service services all the communities it represents and the FBU leads by example on this.

      In short, it may be a significant example of poor communication by the FBU – however, it seems

      1. that the FBU are no longer seeking to engage with LGBT staff and not explaining how resources will be allocated to support LGBT staff.

        A failure to provide comment when approached also makes the FBU appear as though they are hiding something either through shame (or perhaps lack of clarity (amongst themselves) on what the FBU are actually doing to support and engage with LGBT members.

    2. Jock S. Trap 20 Jun 2012, 8:26pm

      An issue of democracy would Include groups and equality not exclude!

      1. Spanner1960 22 Jun 2012, 10:48pm

        Democracy is inherently demographic.
        If the fire service is predominantly heterosexual, then their unions will be likewise. That is what democracy is all about.

  8. This is a bit vague though…it doesn’t say that being a job with the majority being 97% white male means anything.
    For example it doesn’t say gay people are worse of because of this, treated substandard because of this, or even that they face any kind of homophobia
    If this is the case then this doesn’t change anything

    1. The FBU have recognised that the arrangements for supporting LGBT staff have been instrumental in a shift in culture and supporting LGBT members. They now say they will not provide the same structures and are very vague on what will replace it. That does not sound like they continue to support LGBT members.

      1. They’re giving them an advisory position, that’s what they were already doing only now they don’t have the same voting power.
        Just because they’re LGBT it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll make the right decisions
        The decision phrased in that way does seem to have been done in fear that they have a disproportionate voting power to the rest of the firefighters but none of us know how this will play out
        I’m sure if anything was done to undo the work of what the LGBT voters there did then this decision would quickly be reversed

        Could have also been fear as it’s been used against us before that people make the accusation of us having “superior” rights to heteros and it’s surprising actually that the Daily Fail hasn’t yet picked up on this story and put their spin on it

    2. Let me guess, you’re a white male?

      1. That’s a very bigoted statement
        We don’t know the complete story here and to ask what difference this will even make when you don’t even know has you tar me as an enemy to LGBTI and make assumptions about me?
        You’re a disgrace and clearly an idiot

        1. Well, I don’t think you are an enemy, Tigra07

          However, I do think you either do not understand this situation fully or do not have all the facts.

          Having talked to a FBU LGBT member and read the info on the FBU website – I feel that the decision made by the FBU results in them failing to meet the needs they identified of minority groups within the union and furthermore failing to identify how they will put mechanisms in place to ensure these needs are met.

          1. How has cutting their voting power really affected their needs?
            They haven’t rolled back all the changes they made or made any intention of doing so, they’ve just acted in fear and done what the other firefighters asked
            This could turn out either way, good or bad…or nothing could change at all, that’s my bet

          2. They have prevented the voice being heard effectively.

            That is a genuine and real concern of FBU LGBT members (and undoubtedly other minoirty groups too)

            Given that why these mechanisms were put in place and the FBU have not demonstrated that any mechanism to replace it will hear voices, then this is showing that LGBT people are not being listened to.

            Also, as someone else said:
            “People often confuse “democracy” with “rule of the majority”. They are not the same thing.”

          3. It doesn’t suggest to me at all that they’ve done this to silence the minority groups or they wouldn’t still be in advisory positions.
            This seems more like someone high up or possibly a lot of bigoted firefighters may have protested against the minorities having 30% of the vote and their concerns were acted on

            No one knows how this will play out, strange how i keep getting voted down by the mind readers who clearly know otherwise

  9. This, I feel, is a very good example of why unions need a no-platform policy for homophobes, racists, sexists and fascists in general on the executive councils in trade unions.

    BME, LGBT and womens’ representation IS in the interests of the majority of workers. Few workers have the resources or support networks to file for a case for discrimination the vast majority of the time and it isn’t helped by the fact that many unions (particularly in the private sector, to whom the Fire Services are currently being sold off to) are toothless and in pockets of employers these days.

    I’m sure bosses will be delighted with the news anyway.

  10. When a workforce is so unreflective of society (97% white heterosexual male) and you are a minority it is difficult to find someone you identify with.
    I have just returned from Blackpool and am the secretary to the LGBT committee.
    Yesterdays debate was the biggest kick in the teeth I have had in 26 years of firefighting. All our reps are lay officials ( they work for free and still have full time jobs on stations). so to treat people who give so much of there time for the members is insulting.
    We provided that channel for LGBT members to raise there issues and ensured they had a voice. Now we are being told to sit I the corner and if they want our opinion they will ask for it.
    The service has a lot of good people who are not necessarily racist sexist or homophobic but when asked if these sections were needed, if 97% is White male and heterosexual the vote is quite predictable.

    1. Its very disappointing and undermines (from an organisational (FBU) angle) all the extremely good work the organisation has supported and encouraged with regards LGBT, gender, race equality etc.

      What it does not do, is undo the great work you and other representatives have done – and hopefully, in some format, will continue to do.

      I have seen (as a 999 worker myself) the strong way that the FBU have supported LGBT issues in the emergency sector. Up until now they have recognised that there is inequality – and it is because of that inequality that care needs to be taken to ensure voices are heard, bullying is prevented and cultures are changed.

      I am disappointed and upset to hear of the FBU’s decision and it speaks to me of abandoning LGBT people within the Fire and Rescue service. No doubt, yourself, and colleagues will feel much more angry, raw and disappointed.

      Its a sad day in the history of equality and fairness either in terms of unions, Fire and Rescue and the FBU itself.

  11. ‘The policy document said there was “mission creep” among the minority equality sections, which had begun to have a role in wider “industrial and political debate”, beyond their initial remit as an “additional facility intended to enhance the workplace structure in an advisory capacity on issues affecting their under-represented group of members”.’

    I smell a rat here. It would seem that there is a belief that minorities shouldn’t engage in “industrial and political debate” even though they are members and citizens like everyone else. Their message is simple: go back from where you came, and shut up!


  12. The term democracy being used to stop equality. Genius double speak by the majority white heterosexual males who want all the power, with no interference. It’s the best political system human’s have, but the problem with democracy – the majority are not always right.

    1. Spanner1960 22 Jun 2012, 11:04pm

      Typical socialist bull.
      They love to tout the word “democracy” until it goes against them and bites them in the arse, at which point they start whining like stuck pigs about “human rights” and how unfair it all is. You can’t have it both ways, either you go by proportion, or somebody else makes up the rules; either way you are always going to get groups that will fall between two stools.

      I’m afraid that’s just life and you cannot be all things to all men all of the time.

  13. Our gay community cannot on the one hand, quite rightly, demand equality and a level playing field when it comes to marriage, and yet demand special privileges when it comes to voting within a trades union. This is hypocrisy – equal rights for all means everyone, no matter their sexuality, has the same marriage or the same voting rights. The FBU are right to do this.

    1. Every member of the FBU has a voice both through its votes, local and regional union representation and through other support mechanisms.

      They had those prior to this change and they continue to have them now.

      Prior to the gender,race and LGBT representation being guaranteed on the FBU committee – gay, female and ethnic voices were often unheard. The issues of bullying, homophobia, racism, sexism and other issues were often ignored or dealt with wrongly.

      Part of the outcome of the seats on the national committee was to ensure a voice was heard and that the service and FBU became a fairer and more representative place for all employees in the service and members of the union.

      Largely it worked.

      The fear is that this will now slip away and there will be a return to voices no longer being heard. The FBU have failed to communicate how they will ensure this does not happen.

      The FBU have failed to communicate how they will ensure this and they are wrong in how they have handled this.

    2. This is not a question of having something more than the rest, it’s about recognising the barriers for a minority in an industry that is 97% White male and straight. If you are to sit round the table you need to have the rights as everyone else in the debate, the proposals took away that right and our voice on the top table. Issues that may seem unimportant to some union officials may mean the world to the member raising them but if the person you are asking to represent you hasn’t any understanding then those issues get dismissed.
      An example in recent years is the courage many of our trans members have displayed by being themselves in the workplace. A lot of work has been done over the last decade to ensure that the support and education had begun and although by no means perfect if left to straight White males no work in this field would have taken place.
      I’m not special but I am different from most of the other people I work with.

      1. Spanner1960 22 Jun 2012, 10:54pm

        Nobody is denying your right, but surely your demand is proportional to your influence.
        If 5% of people are LGBT, then surely 5% of the union board should be also 5%, or do you feel that you should have more?

        Democracy is supposed to be equitable, or are you more equal than everybody else?

  14. I worry about positive discrimination. I think educationist better way forward.

    1. Sorry about the pigeon English

    2. If you engage in positive discrimination as a solution to identified racism, homophobia, lack of voices of minority groups etc etc then – if you decide to withdraw positive discrimination you need to ensure a) that there are mechnisms in place to ensure that minority groups are protected and their voices are heard, b) that new changes are robust enough to ensure that there is no slippage in the abilitiy of voices to be heard and prejudice, bullying etc to be dealt with and c) that changes are communciated effectively and understood.

      I am not convinced from both what I have read and from what I have talked about with friends in the FBU LGBT group that the FBU have addressed any of these concerns.

      1. you shouldnt have positive discrimination in the uk at all as its kinda illegal :P lol though i assume your using positive action and positive discrimination interchangibley (when they are infact legaly very different)

        1. Not convinced positive discrimination is entirely illegal in the UK – I think there has to be good justification and evidence to show there is no harm arising out of it.

          However, this is more positive action – and the comments about mechanisms that need to be in place above remain appropriate. The FBU seem not to have considered this and seem to regard the voices of minority groups to lack importance.

          1. by name and definition it is illegal inside the uk and there are only a few exceptions as covered in the good friday agreement and the sex discrimination (election candidate) act and a specific internship inside the civil service, all other positive discrimination is illegal, whether you are convinced or not that the law is implemented as such is irrelevant but it is illegal under the equality act not including the exceptions i already said, for more clarity this explains it pretty well.

          2. oopsie, did forget that disability is treated differently aswel as most of the disability discrimination act was absorbed into the equality act

          3. I was thinking of positive discrimination in terms of disability.

          4. Spanner1960 24 Jun 2012, 12:17pm

            Come on Stu: Positive Discrimination has been going on for years. I saw it creeping in back in the 80’s, and now it’s an accepted part of the workplace. Now everyone is expected to have quotas, with token minorities, after Labour pushed their whole PC guilt-trip on everybody, so now you aren’t allowed to get the best people any more, you have to employ the ones they expect you to have.

  15. Robert White 21 Jun 2012, 5:23am

    If Womens right to Vote, and Slavery had been subjected to popular vote instead of being enacted by leadership, then we would still have slaves by law and women would be amongst them thuroughly.

    Fairness simply does not come from popular vote, government has a role in opposing the tirany of the majority.

    This role of governance extends down deep into things like unions.

    1. Spanner1960 22 Jun 2012, 9:03am

      Except unions are there specifically to fight against governance.
      Trying to control a union is like trying to herd cats

  16. GingerlyColors 21 Jun 2012, 7:28am

    If the Fire Brigades Union wishes to disengage with their LGBT section, they better make sure that they don’t catch fire themselves because we won’t p**s on them if they do!

  17. Nelly MANchester 21 Jun 2012, 7:46am

    Shamefull and what a way forward I have lost any and all respect….!
    What is going on ?

  18. I smell some sort of Palace coup – what exactly started all this? This is democracy turning into mob rule.

    1. Spanner1960 22 Jun 2012, 9:01am

      Wake up mate.
      It always has been.

  19. Examples of good work the FBU has done through engagement with LGBT members – how will this continue if the voice is not heard?

    “staff had experienced name-calling and physical abuse and even had safety equipment tampered with as a joke”

    There are many more examples.

    Its shocking the FBU seem to be washing their hands of LGBT issues and giving in to mob rule.

  20. People often confuse “democracy” with “rule of the majority”. They are not the same thing.

    “Democracy” means rule by the people for the people. That’s ALL the people for ALL the people. If the voices and concerns of minority groups within the body politic are being sidelined because they are in a minority, that’s not democratic. Taking away the safeguards that allow minority issues to be fairly and properly addressed is actually making an institution less democratic, not more so.

    The term for rule by the majority or the mob is Ochlocracy. In order to avoid falling into this, a democratic institution needs safeguards for its minority members and cannot just leave everything up to majority vote.

    1. Spanner1960 22 Jun 2012, 8:59am

      So what happens if the decision is not unanimous?
      Don’t be so bloody daft; it is simply mob rule, nothing more. Democracy is good, but it has to be tempered with reason, understanding, intelligence and helping others.

  21. Someone should explain that 6 would find it very difficult to outvote 13!! Simple arithmetic!!

  22. Spanner1960 22 Jun 2012, 8:57am

    Guaranteed representation for the minority groups, the document said, could “increase the likelihood that a minority could outvote a majority”.

    There’s socialist ‘democracy’ in action for you. Democratic as long as you do what we tell you. bunch of damned hypocrites.

    Unions are more trouble than they are worth.

    1. They certainly are to those who wish to casualise and de-skill labour, drive down wages and cow workers by creating structural unemployment and export manufacturing to sweated economies. Trades Unions may have many faults, but the consequences of marginalising and weakening them for 3 decades are becoming visible all around us. They have also been at the forefront of advancing lgbt rights.

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