Racism, bullying still a problem in Amsterdam fire department: Mayor

Firefighters' gear (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Muffet)Firefighters' gear (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Muffet)

Amsterdam fire department commander Leen Schaap is still struggling to change the culture within the corps, which still shows signs of discrimination, racism and bullying, Mayor Eberhard van der Laan and municipal secretary Arjan van Gils said in a letter to the city council, NU.nl reports.

According to the mayor, Schaap's efforts to modernize the fire department and change the culture within the corps is continually hampered by the central works council and a group of 'old garde' firefighters. In his attempts to create a "normal organization", Schaap continually meets resistance. 

What Schaap is trying to do is create an organization in which there is "zero tolerance in terms of discrimination and inequality, but also to create a safe working environment, compliance to the internal code of conduct and with the working time law", the mayor and secretary wrote to the council. 

As an example, the letter cites a case about a fireman being dismissed for "discriminatory and racist behavior" against colleagues and citizens, according to the newspaper. The man filed a lawsuit against his dismissal, and the court ruled that the man was wrongly fired because the old corps leadership did not intervene in the situation.

Some firefighters saw the verdict as a victory. And now the colleagues who gave statements against the fired firefighter are being bullied, ignored and intimidated. "The works council, which should stand for all firefighters and protect the reporters, has not yet publicly spoken out against this behavior." The Amsterdam mayor and aldermen call the behavior of this group of firefighters "totally unacceptable" and are therefore sounding the alarm.

This is not the first time Eberhard van der Laan is raising concerns about the culture in the Amsterdam fire department. He wrote a similar letter in January.

The central works council and unions haven't responded to this new letter as yet, according to NU.nl.


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