Mid and West Wales Fire staff say firefighters are 'breaking down in tears' after being bullied

  • Our report contains details that some people may find distressing.

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service tolerates bullying and is a "little boys' club", say some of the staff who work there.

Since ITV Wales revealed allegations of a "toxic culture" at North Wales Fire and Rescue Service earlier this year, we have been contacted by firefighters at the Mid and West Wales Service who have described similar experiences.

They have described a culture where bullying is common place and nepotism is allowed to flourish.

In response, the service told us it is concerned to hear these stories. Adding, whilst they cannot comment on individual cases, they "will always act swiftly should anyone contact us directly with concerns".

Workplace culture at Welsh fire services has been under the spotlight for some time.

A damning culture review at South Wales' service was published in January, and was sparked by an ITV News investigation into claims of abuse and harassment of female staff by male firefighters.

A month later, in February 2024, the Welsh Government announced it was stepping in to oversee the service, and in March 2024 it was announced that Wales' other two fire services - North, and Mid and West Wales - would also undergo culture reviews.

But the union representing firefighters says it wants reassurances the reviews will be robust.

Tristan worked for Mid and West Wales Fire Service 10 years ago. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

'It seems like it is worse'

Tristan worked for Mid and West Wales Fire Service 10 years ago. It was a job he loved and he looked forward to a long career but all that changed when he complained about poor behaviours at work.

A decade later, he said he was appalled to see ITV's reporting about firefighters who have had similar experiences.

"I would’ve thought they would’ve put things in place to safeguard people who bring forward serious complaints but it clearly hasn’t", he said, "it seems like it is worse."

Tristan made a fresh complaint to Mid and West Wales in February about the way he says he was treated.

It was then he says he started to receive unexpected calls.

"I had 27 in 10 days at all times of the day, starting six or seven days after I made the allegation," he said.

ITV Wales has seen phone records which show the calls Tristan received, however we are unable to verify who made the calls.

Tristan has also shown us a strange package which was delivered to his house. He said: "Inside the package was a game called truth or dare.

"Psychologically it really upset me, it made me afraid to be in the house – I actually went to stay with my mother for a week thinking that any more packages would really make me mentally not right."

Mid and West Fire says it is "concerned to hear about theses stories", but it has nothing to do with the calls and package.

Tristan says he received an unexpected parcel after making a new complaint about his time at Mid and West Wales Fire service. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

'Firefighters break down and are crying'

Another whistleblower said: "I don’t think it is very healthy - some of the individuals have been bullied to a breaking point where they break down and are crying.

"They should be investigating each and every complaint and using officers from other parts of the service to carry out interviews to ascertain exactly what is going on.

"I sincerely hope that something is done at management level and this can be ironed out so that the service can settle down."

ITV Cymru Wales spoke to 35 whistleblowers from the North Wales Fire and Rescue Service in February. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Another whistleblower who also wanted to remain anonymous described how the service "is run like a private members' club".

They told us when action is taken it is disproportionate, with some staff being sacked for small misdemeanours while others receive no punishment.

Like Tristan and many others, they have urged the Welsh Government to ensure the upcoming cultural reviews leave no stone unturned.

Union calls for reviews to be robust

After a damning report into South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, which is effectively in special measures, reviews were ordered by the minister responsible for fire services in Wales, Hannah Blythyn MS, but that brief has now passed to Julie James MS following a cabinet reshuffle by new First Minister Vaughan Gething.

Unions say those reviews must be robust if the working culture is ever to change.

The FBU had long argued for cultural reviews in Wales, but they are now concerned they will not be robust enough to bring about change. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Cerith Griffiths, from the Fire Brigade Union, told us: "The fact that they have announced reviews in both those services, we welcome that. I have serious concerns about whether they will be the same.

"It has to be in the same vein as South Wales, I think that will give people faith that this is going to be done and done correctly, because there is absolutely no way that the issues we saw in South Wales weren’t going to be replicated elsewhere."

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service also added in a statement: "We would like to reassure everyone we are not complacent about the service’s culture.

"A robust cultural audit, undertaken by an external company, has already taken place and as a result, through the formation of a culture and inclusion board and working group, an action plan to make wide-ranging enhancements to our service is underway, a process which has been welcomed by Welsh Government."

You can contact the team at wales@itv.com.

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