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Meet rep Carl Petch page 3

The magazine of the Fire Brigades Union Black and Ethnic Minority Members  > www.fbu.org.uk

Summer 2012

She did overcome Doreen Lawrence’s long fight for justice Page 6


FOREWORD

Foreword We face a continuing struggle The year began with very little of the optimism normally associated with a ‘new’ year. The reality is that we face a continuing struggle to maintain our current standards of living in the face of government attacks on the public sector. Our service has seen cuts like never before, with no pay rise on the horizon and an increase in our hard-earned pension contributions for the next three years. Making internal savings has resulted in us being unable to produce a hard copy of this edition, but we decided that it was important to keep our members updated, particularly after the cancellation of the B&EMM school in 2011. School With the B&EMM school high on our agenda, the FBU had decided that all sectional schools will be held at the front end of the year. Although the committee felt strongly that the school being held in October was appropriate during Black History Month, it was agreed that holding a school earlier in the year would also have its advantages and that with sufficient planning, it would be possible to then hold an FBU event in October to celebrate Black History Month. Subsequently, we were unable to secure an earlier date so our B&EMM school will revert to its usual weekend – 12-14 October 2012. Information 2  Advisor  Summer 2012

and process for the 2012 school will be issued as soon as possible. Equality agenda The last two years have seen the government’s downgrading of the equality agenda and although the brigades have been trusted to monitor their own equality and diversity policies, there has been a noticeable downturn in equality departments throughout the fire service. Your national committee is committed to reiterating the importance of the equality agenda and the impact that changes to policy will have on our workplace and communities. It is not just the fire service that has been affected. All public sector organisations have been changed by this downgrading and the fight is on to get this government to recognise the negative impact this has on making the fire service fully representative of all our communities. Pensions The first phase of the pensions campaign has been concluded. The evidence provided by the FBU has been considered and we have managed to negotiate

a reduction in the first year contributions increase and two reviews on the issues of pensions opt-out and retirement age. Our negotiators felt it was the best that could be achieved at this time and the executive council decided on that basis while we will not be having a ballot for industrial action, the campaign continues. Restructuring Despite opposition from B&EMM, the executive council have also recommended, as part of the continuing FBU re-structure, that voting rights on its committees be withdrawn from the equality sections and also that the reserved seats on the EC for B&EMM, NWC and the LGBT be removed. The FBU special conference in June will make the final decision. The B&EMM national committee hope that other structures will join us in opposing this proposal. On the move Since our last edition, we have lost regional representation in Regions 9 and 12. However we have gained regional reps in Region 5, Bros Carl Petch, Region 13,

Your national committee is committed to reiterating the importance of the equality agenda and the impact that changes to policy will have on our workplace and communities

Obi Selassie and Region 7, Rod Barrett. Welcome to the national committee, we have much to do! Our long serving Region 7 rep, Colin Jarrett, retired in February and we wish him a long and healthy retirement. We also thank him for his efforts over many years. We also saw our dearly loved official Samantha Samuels stepping down – Carole Brown has been elected in her place. Our national chair, Lud Ramsey, was honoured with the STUC equality award (see inside) – well deserved brother. Stephen Lawrence There was one piece of heartening news at the beginning of the year – the judgement that saw the murderers of Stephen Lawrence were finally nailed and jailed, 18 years after they were part of a racist gang that attacked and killed him. The other three or four members are still at large and hopefully one day we will also see them incarcerated for their crimes. See the article inside this edition. Changes in our workplaces and personal lives affect the amount of time each one of us can give in helping our members and continually representing in their best interests. Whatever decisions are taken by our employers or our union rest assured we shall continue to fight for the hard earned right to have our voices heard. Michael Nicholas Executive Council member for B&EMM


Meet a rep Carl Petch B&EMM rep region 5

Contents

Anyone who takes up a rep’s position will learn so much

News

Carl Petch: In the words of Malcolm X: ‘If you don’t stand for something, then you’ll fall for anything’

I have rcently been appointed as the black and ethnic minority (B&EMM) rep for region 5. I joined the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service in August 2001 aged 18 and, even at that age, I was confident/ cocky and very much into challenging everything like a bull in a china shop! Ten years later I’m still “assertive” and very much challenging everything, but I use a different approach which, I feel, has produced results. I believe that this attitude and other experiences have given me the potential to be a positive regional B&EMM rep. I have been the brigade rep for a while now. As the regional rep I have taken on additional responsibilities and activities. My primary role is to organise B&EMM activity in the region, attend regional and brigade meetings and to inform brigade B&EMM reps. I want to get a rep in each brigade in region 5. In Lancashire we have Naveed, in Cheshire we have Erdal. In Merseyside we have a possible rep and in Greater Manchester we have another member who has expressed an interest so, hopefully, in a short time we will have four out of five reps in place. If any B&EMM in Cumbria wants to discuss representing in their brigade, then contact me or a brigade official – we will be delighted to hear from you. Anyone who takes up a rep’s position will learn so much and it is great to hear important information about your brigade first-hand and have the ability to pass it on to other members. I would highly recommend the position of brigade B&EMM rep. In the words of Malcolm X: “If you don’t stand for something, then you’ll fall for anything.”

4  TUC black workers’ conference Firefighter’s equality award Equality in Scotland

Focus 5 Haiti Mark Brown, Yorkshire and Humberside region B&EMM rep, reports on an eye-opening fundraiser for earthquake victims

Feature 6 Overcoming injustice Michael Nicholas, FBU executive council member for black and ethnic minority members, explains the long fight for justice for Stephen Lawrence

Back page 8 Diary, personal, contacts

Published by the Fire Brigades Union, Bradley House, 68 Coombe Road, Kingston upon Thames, KT2 7AE Tel 020 8541 1765. Fax 020 8546 5187 Design by Edition Periodicals, The Brix, St Matthew’s Church Brixton Hill, London SW2 1JF www.editionperiodicals.co.uk Cover picture: Rod Leon

Summer 2012  Advisor 3


Advisor

News

Summer 2012

TUC equality motion This year’s TUC black workers conference took place in London in April with 220 delegates from 29 unions. The FBU sent four delegates and an observer. The FBU’s motion was on the scrapping of central auditing of equality in the fire and rescue service. This has seriously put at risk all the improvements made on equality and diversity in recent years. Delegates were also informed of the proposal going to FBU’s annual conference to remove equality structures, voting rights and reserved seats. The FBU’s emergency motion on forced evictions of refused refugees in Glasgow was strongly supported by a Scottish UNITE delegate. The result of the race committee elections saw Michael Nicholas re-elected to the committee with the second-highest vote. The conference voted

FBU delegates (l to r) Mark Brown (R4) Michael Nicholas (EC member), Garrett Brooks (R10) and Carl Petch (R5) that motion 9, on Stephen Lawrence’s legacy, should go to congress in September. The conference was chaired by Unison lay official Eleanor Smith who highlighted black activists’ role in defending black communities in the light of the governments’ public service cuts. TUC general secretary Brendan Barber spoke about the Stephen Lawrence case and of his admiration for the Lawrence family. He paid tribute to their campaign for justice and launched a new TUC campaign in honour of their struggle – Stephen

Lawrence 18:18. Stephen’s mother Doreen Lawrence spoke to the conference about the work of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust and of her continuing struggle for an inquiry into the allegedly corrupt police investigations. She encouraged delegates to discuss the work of the trust in our communities and to support it financially as it relies entirely on public funding. Labour shadow cabinet minister and Brixton MP Chuka Umunna addressed the conference, as did Lee Jasper from the Black Activists Rising Against Cuts campaign.

Single Scottish service – a suitable case for equality? Sami Chaudhry Dumfries & Galloway brigade chair While colleagues south of the border are battling against mergers and amalgamations, north of the border we are contemplating the prospect of a single fire service It has been talked about in all my 16 years’ service, but with the decreasing financial settlement to the Scottish government from Westminster it has

become a necessity and inevitable. What does this mean for B&EMM and the other equalities sections in Scotland? The Scottish government has retained many of the standards that the Westminster government has binned recently. The way we do business is quite different, but that does not mean that everything will be hunky dory. Maintaining and

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improving our standing in the fire service will always be a struggle, as we will always be the minority. I believe what will be different is where there was good practice in one brigade it will be spread across the whole country and where a brigade was failing resources and experience will be used to bring it up. Lift as we climb. Perhaps the biggest reason for optimism is that work on development of the new

service is significantly influenced by the FBU. Regional, brigade and sectional reps are directly engaged in workstreams that will determine the size, shape, and principles of the service. We are optimistic that a service that practices respect and dignity for all will be a just reward for all our efforts and representation and encourage all communities in Scotland to see the service as a viable and rewarding career.

Lud wins top award FBU equality rep Lud Ramsay, a fire and education officer for Lothian and Borders FRS, has won the Scottish TUC One Workplace Equality Award for making an exceptional impact in challenging racism and promoting equality. He joined Hampshire FRS in 1988 as its first black and ethnic minority firefighter. He led on a successful campaign against BNP membership in the fire and rescue service and developed good-practice measures to attract more under-represented groups to join the service. He was invited to join Lothian and Borders in 2008 to address the lack of BME people in Scotland’s fire service and developed a recruitment outreach volunteer team. This involved open days, community events and other methods to help fire and rescue service recruitment become more transparent. Lud has highlighted a number of issues in Scotland that need to be addressed in relation to BME members. His work has resulted in Lothian and Borders FRS having the highest figures for BMEs in their fire service and has encouraged all fire and rescue services across Scotland to take equality issues more seriously.


HAITI

Mark Brown, Yorkshire and Humberside region B&EMM rep, reports on an eye-opening fundraiser for earthquake victims

‘Overwhelming evidence’ points to UN peacekeepers as the source of cholera in Haiti camps (bottom).

Where did Haiti charity money go? The FBU was a joint sponsor of a solidarity event for Haiti at TUC Congress House in London in January this year that commemorated the second anniversary of the disastrous earthquake that hit the country in January 2010. The event began with factual information about what the population of the poorest country in the western hemisphere has been going through. A short film – “Where Did the Money Go?” – showed how the money that has been donated to many charities has done little to help the poverty stricken population. Concerns have been raised about charities’ expenses and how charity workers behave in the country, living in luxury hotels while the people they are there to help are across the street in tents struggling to survive. The film was very informative. Later we took part in a discussion with Mario

Joseph, a civil rights lawyer from Haiti. Mr Joseph has worked on behalf of the Haitian poor for many years and informed us how the UN peacekeeping forces from Nepal introduced cholera into Haiti. He has been gathering evidence with a view to taking legal action against the UN.

Epidemic

He claims that the cholera that UN peacekeepers introduced to Haiti in October 2010 has led to Haitians’ rights to health and life being violated with over 26,000 sick and 200 dead in just one month and over 7,000 dead and 500,000 sickened since the epidemic started. The UN declines to provide the medical treatment and clean water necessary to control the epidemic and refuses to allow the victims their day in court. A UN report confirmed that “overwhelming evidence” points to peacekeepers of the UN Stabilization Mission to

PICTURES: JESS HURD/ REPORTDIGITAL.CO.UK

Haiti (MINUSTAH) as the source of the cholera. The report cites the mission’s failure to test peacekeepers deployed from cholera epidemic zones abroad and waste disposal practices that allowed raw sewage to flow into Haiti’s largest river system. The UN refuses to accept responsibility for the epidemic, claiming that other factors, including Haiti’s poor water and healthcare systems were responsible. But those factors were well known at the time the UN made the decisions about testing troops deployed from cholera zones and maintaining its waste disposal system and were a basis for the UN exercising greater care, not an excuse for negligence. We then saw a documentary – “Baseball In A Time Of Cholera” – about a young boy’s life and how cholera has affected him and his family. The second part of the event was a concert of world music. We heard Eri Okan, a

Brazilian group playing lively carnival music. Alexander D Great and Debra Romain are a calypso duo – Debra plays the steel pan and Alexander the guitar. Carmen Rodney sang gospel acapella and we then had another short address from Mario Joseph, who also requested two minutes silence to commemorate the time the earthquake struck Haiti.

Lively

After that we heard from Akala, Ashebar and the African Revolution, an African drum-based group that got the crowd going with some upbeat, lively music. We finished with Zena the soul singer and David the human beatbox. Overall the event was well attended and I hope the fundraising was positive. The information presented certainly raised my awareness of the situation in Haiti since the disaster. ■■To show your support got to www.haitijustice.org and sign the petition. Summer 2012  Advisor 5


STEPHEN LAWRENCE

It is to be hoped that the 3 January 2012 will be noted as the date when a black family finally saw light within the sometimes murky depths of the British criminal justice system. It was, though, a “strange kind of justice”. The date saw a guilty verdict and subsequent life imprisonment of two of the perpetrators of the savage assault that led to the death of 18-year-old Stephen Lawrence.

Murdered

Let us be reminded that, in 1993, Stephen Lawrence was a bright young black man with aspirations of becoming an architect before he was murdered by that racist gang in Eltham, London. His parents, Doreen and Neville, and other family members, have suffered severe collateral damage that sadly culminated in the break-up of his parent’s marriage. The Lawrences have fought, and continue to fight, an 18-year battle in their journey to attain justice for Stephen. While the 3 January verdict was their first positive outcome, thanks to new legislation and forensic science, it has still come eighteen years too late. And let us not forget that at least three other murderous thugs are still free. Let us not ever underestimate the role of the Metropolitan Police service in the debacle that has occurred since that fateful night in 1993. Allegations of collusion with known criminals, corruption, racism and incompetence led to the ground-breaking Macpherson inquiry that confirmed what many in our black communities had been 6  Advisor  Summer 2012

ROD LEON

Michael Nicholas, FBU executive council member for black and ethnic minority members, explains the long fight for justice for Stephen Lawrence saying for decades: that our police service discriminates on the grounds of race and that black and ethnic minority people received a poorer service from the police than their white neighbours.

Tenacious

Rest assured that there would have been no inquiry without the tenacity of the campaign from the Lawrences and their associates. Principal police officers and politicians opposed such an inquiry for years until there was a change of government and political emphasis. The Macpherson report and recommendations led to the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 which forced all public services to provide a fairer service to all in our communities. Trade unions also played their part, and rightly so, as the biggest representatives of black workers in our communities. The TUC established the Stephen Lawrence Task Force with the objective of eliminating institutional racism in the workplace (still a work in progress). The fire service launched a thematic review that also found practices in the fire service suffering from the same institutional malaise. The reality of campaigning is that we have to fight for every change that is necessary within the criminal justice system. It is a sad fact that the Lawrence family and so many others – people campaigning against deaths in custody, for instance – have to dedicate whole lives, or the best part of them, to seeking justice over the loss of

loved ones. The racist discrimination that, according to Liberal Democrat London mayoral candidate and former principle MPS officer Brian Paddick, is “endemic” in the Metropolitan Police is still a factor in many other public institutions – so that fight continues. Doreen Lawrence spoke at this year’s TUC Black Workers conference in April. What she

said was heartbreaking and yet heart-warming too. We can only commend Doreen, Neville, Lawrence family members and associates for their strength, fortitude and determination in ensuring that Stephen’s short life and horrific death had a lasting impact on British society. The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust was set up in Stephen’s memory so that


PAGE LABEL

At the 2012 TUC Black Workers Conference (l-r): Wilf Sullivan (TUC Race Equality Officer), Doreen Lawrence, Micky Nicholas and Gloria Mills (TUC General Council member, Chair of TUC Race Relations Committee and former TUC President)

young people from deprived backgrounds can receive bursaries to pursue careers in architecture. See the website address on the right for how you can donate to help the Trust’s good work to continue.

Struggle

The struggle for all of us who believe in justice and equality continues and we need to

ensure that we all play a part in supporting and assisting those who fight against the greatest odds to achieve that objective. Doreen continues to demand answers of the Metropolitan Police over its flawed investigations and allegations of corruption – a campaign we need to support. Doreen and Neville Lawrence you are an inspiration and we salute you. We shall overcome.

More information www.soundcloud.com/ zita-holbourne/ strange-kind-of-justice-in www.tuc.org.uk/sltg/ www.stephenlawrence.org.uk You can donate £2 by texting DLAW02 £2 to 70070 Summer 2012  Advisor 7


Diary 19–21 JuneFBU Special Conference, Imperial Hotel, Blackpool. Conference agenda to be distributed to branches in due course. 26–27 JuneB&EMM National Committee meeting, Brighton 27 JulyStart of the Olympic and ParaOlympic Games

EXCLUSIVELY FOR FBU B&EMM! 2012 Fire Brigades Union

ANNUAL B&EMM SCHOOL Friday 12–Sunday 14 October 2012 Wortley Hall Nr Sheffield

A full weekend of FBU education on the B&EMM section and our fire service issues. Fully qualified TUC tutor and guest speakers including general secretary Matt Wrack Application forms will be sent to all B&EMM on our FBU mailing database so please ensure that we have your current address details. Forms will be sent out in July. First time applicants have priority as this school is always over-subscribed!

LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU THERE! B&EMM Lifting as we climb

10 SeptTUC Congress 25–26 SeptB&EMM National Committee meeting, Glasgow 12–14 OctoberNational B&EMM School, Wortley Hall near Sheffield

Personal Congratulations Bros Garrett Brooks & John Hughes(LFB Bravery Awards) Sis Denise Christie & Jacqui(Civil Partnership) Sis Carole Brown(completing the London Marathon) Our dear friend Ms Dawne Stephenson(on becoming a JP)

Condolences Bro Paul Greaves on the recent loss of his mother

B&EMM rep contacts Region 01Lud Ramsey ( 07890 630 920) Region 02FBU Regional Office/Michael Nicholas (07764 927 729) Region 03Lee Brown ( 07827 300 079) Region 04Mark Brown ( 07980 644 789) Region 05Carl Petch ( 07834 656 098) Region 06Dalton Powell ( 07923 079 723) Region 07Rod Barrett ( 07976 628 644) Region 08Brian Amos ( 07773 289 694) Region 09FBU Region Office/Michael Nicholas (as above) Region 10Garrett Brooks ( 07854998 524)/ Michael Nicholas (as above) Region 11FBU Regional Office/Carole Brown (07872 053 986) Region 12FBU Regional Office/Lud Ramsey (as above) Region 13Obi Selassie ( 07974 496 787)


FBU Advisor Summer 2012