Fire service bans white men from open days – to boost number of ethnic minority recruits
By MATTHEW HICKLEY
Last updated at 13:00 26 January 2008
White men have been banned from fire brigade recruitment sessions because bosses want to hit their diversity targets.
Four out of five “open” days held by Avon Fire Service were restricted to women and ethnic minorities.
Critics last night accused the West Country brigade of discrimination. An MP said the move would fuel resentment and undermine race relations.
Avon’s bosses insist their ban on white men is simply “positive action”.
(Be interesting to know if those responsible for this decision are Common Purpose. it is surely Malfeasance. ed)
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Avon fire brigade
Back in October, the same brigade demoted a fire crew who shone their torches at four men they found having sex in bushes.
The decision sparked an outcry from critics who claimed it was politically correct madness.
In the latest incident, five “have-a-go” days at the brigade’s Bristol HQ were set up to allow potential job applicants to try out firefighting equipment.
They also had the chance to chat to staff and learn more about selection tests ahead of an application deadline next week.
Two of the six-hour sessions have been limited strictly to women and ethnic minorities. Another was for women only and a fourth was laid on exclusively for ethnic minorities.
Only today’s event is open to everyone, allowing white men to attend.
Philip Davies, Tory MP for Shipley in West Yorkshire, said: “This sort of thing just makes people’s blood boil and does more damage than good to race relations in this country.
“How would people react if women and black people were banned from an open day?
“I don’t care whether the fire service is only made up of ethnic-minority women – as long as they are the best people at fighting fires.
“If the chief fire officer is so concerned, he should give up his job to an ethnic minority woman instead of depriving other white men of a job.”
One Avon fireman, speaking anonymously, warned that the targeted recruitment drives were ‘not helpful’ and would cause resentment.
“It has a very negative effect on everyone,” he added.
“When you see people from black and ethnic communities the first thing you think is ‘has he or she only got the job because of their minority origin?”
“It’s not helpful to them as they may also feel that this is the case. Open, across-the-board recruitment is the only way to stop this.”
Avon officials said they were trying to recruit women and ethnic minorities because 97 per cent of their 921 staff were white men.
Kevin Pearson, the brigade’s chief officer, said: “I totally refute the allegation that Avon Fire Service is engaged in any form of positive discrimination.
“It is unlawful and we wouldn’t do it. We are doing what we can to encourage applications from women and minority groups who are currently under-represented in the fire service.
“It is my concern to improve diversity so the service reflects the community it serves and we can provide the best possible service.
“But that positive action stops at the point of selection. Once someone has applied, they are selected on merit.”
He said Avon was aiming for 15 per cent of its staff to be female and 3 per cent to come from ethnic minorities.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission said the fire brigade appeared not to have broken any equality laws.
While positive discrimination between candidates is illegal, a spokesman said, encouraging applicants from particular groups is not.
Avon Fire Service said 103 women and ethnic minority hopefuls had attended the three restricted open days held so far.
The women-only event was attended by 47, the ethnic event by 28, and the joint women and ethnic event by 28. The final event, also joint, will be held today.
Yesterday’s session, which was open to all, attracted 179 people within the first 90 minutes.
The open days, along with all other recruitment information, were advertised on the brigade’s website.
Avon and Somerset Police were embroiled in a race row two years ago when the force rejected 186 white applicants at the first stage of selection.
The force received 800 applications for just 180 jobs and admitted it had “deselected” white male applicants in a bid to increase ethnic diversity. Chief Constable Colin Port was forced to apologise.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-510418/Fire-service-bans-white-men-open-days–boost-number-ethnic-minority-recruits.html#ixzz3a5Cp7ORp
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