Fire Brigades Union

The black and ethnic minority members (B&EMM) section was organised by the Fire Brigades Union after its first meeting in 1995. Previously, BME fire officers had been meeting informally in London to support each other and discuss the historical racism and unfair treatment they had received in the London Fire Brigade.

In a very short time, structures for BME members were inserted into the union’s rule book, they elected their own representatives and officials and formed a national committee. In the late nineties, there were estimated to be under 700 BME operational staff in the British fire and rescue service. Today that figure stands at approximately 1100. BME representation has seen a slow but steady rise in a public service that has not had much recruitment in the last six years.

©2016 Copyright Rod Leon. 8th September 2016. Wortley Hall, Wortley Sheffield South Yorkshire. FBU BEM Summer School. Tel:+144(0)7453-721575. rod@allimages.net COMPULSORY CREDIT: Rod Leon. All rights reserved Moral rights asserted under Copyright Design Patents Act 1988. No part of this Photograph to be stored, reproduced, manipulated or transmitted without permission. Photographs are for editorial use only.
8th September 2016. Wortley Hall, Wortley Sheffield South Yorkshire/FBU BEM Summer School.

The B&EMM section offers support to its members and represents their interests in a fire service that has yet to ‘square the circle’ on equality and diversity. Over the years, discussions with successive governments and principal managers have seen progress in many fire services but our work is far from over. The BME staff who joined in the mid-eighties are now retiring having served for 30 years or more – their numbers need to be replenished.

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George Roberts, firefighter, soldier and opinion former was duly honoured, posthumously with a blue plaque and a ceremony to commemorate his work throughout the blitz during WWII.

The challenge for the B&EMM section is to continue to organise members and support them during their careers in the fire service. As older members and reps depart from the service they need to be replaced by others who have the same level of commitment to ensuring that the UK fire and rescue service is an environment that BME people can join, enjoy and realise their potential as desired. The fight for equity and equality continues.

A pioneer honoured

George Roberts, firefighter, soldier and opinion former was duly honoured, posthumously with a blue plaque and a ceremony to commemorate his work throughout the blitz during WWII.

MPs, representatives from the fire service and members of the local community joined George’s descendants as they watched black and ethnic minority firefighters line up as a guard of honour as the plaque was unveiled. His great-granddaughter Samantha Harding said: “It was an absolutely amazing day”.