London fire truck file photo. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News.)

Working Group To Handle City Hall Harassment

Widespread workplace harassment and bullying allegations at city hall have prompted the London Professional Fire Fighters Association (LPFFA) to establish a joint committee to tackle the issue.

The firefighters union released a statement on social media late Tuesday that said it would create a working group to “develop strategies for examining, reviewing, and improving employee support structure.”

The proposal of the joint committee was approved following several conversations with London City Manager Martin Hayward, according to the LPFFA. The group will be a combination of members of labour organizations and management leadership from the city.

“The LPFFA continues to be committed to preserving the integrity of the policies, and protections and maintain the focus on providing a workplace that is free of harassment, bullying, workplace violence, and discrimination for all employees,” the LPFFA statement concluded.

Dozens of allegations of harassment, abuse, and retaliation in the workplace within city hall, specifically the fire department, came to light this week following a special two-hour closed door meeting of city council on Monday. When councillors returned to public session all they would report was that “progress” had been made. It wasn’t until hours later when Hayward released a statement that said the city was committed to ensuring a workplace that is free of harassment and discrimination of any kind, that citizens got an inkling about what the meeting was about.

Unsatisfied with the response from the city, the head of the London Abused Women’s Centre came forward with more information on the matter. Megan Walker said she received 29 calls last week from City of London employees who described the city as a “poisoned workplace.” Some described being targeted by certain individuals at the City of London and being harassed and abused. Others said they had been targeted and faced retaliation after standing with those who had been targeted, according to Walker.

She went on to say that she approached Mayor Matt Brown about the serious claims and he promised to advocate for the victims and get back to her, which she claimed he did not do.

Brown issued his own written statement on the matter late Tuesday afternoon. Brown said he would not speak to “allegations and information collected by a third party.”

“We have an obligation to our employees to keep these types of matters confidential and private and we will continue to do so,” said Brown in the statement. “Often times being a leader means dealing with difficult and sensitive information; it means working through appropriate channels and not negotiating in the media or giving in to ultimatums, but rather taking a careful look at a situation and taking appropriate action. If we need to make adjustments to our policies, we will.”

Meanwhile, the firefighters union has commended those who have come forward for their courage. The association said it “stands together with our members, the employees of the City of London, and with our fellow citizens to stop all forms of workplace harassment and violence in our community.”