Northern firefighters have been in the news for a few days. But it wasn't for the right reasons. The problem of sexual harassment in the workplace was the focus of La Voix du Nord, a regional newspaper. We will explain what it is and the consequences.
Two young women, who were not identified by their real names, testified that they were victims of sexual harassment in 2018.
One, aged 29 years old, reports a "descent to hell" in 2018, in Lille, after his colleague and companion circulated "an intimate snap". His superior would have said to him: "This was all your fault. We don't like flirtatious people here."
A young woman serving in Lille claims that she was touched after becoming a volunteer firefighter in 2019 at the age 19 Without any effect, she would have alerted her superior. This led to harassment accusations and new allegations from coworkers.
This case follows the November 2020 suicide of a volunteer firefighter from Hautmont barracks. According to the Departmental Fire and Rescue Service, (Sdis), a police investigation "has highlighted very serious deficiencies" by colleagues.
Two agents were fired and one was suspended for six months, with no salary. Three volunteers were terminated and one was reprimanded for "harassment" and sexual assault, according to Sdis.
The Departmental Fire and Rescue Service of the North launched an internal investigation Monday into the statements made by two female firefighters in La Voix du Nord. Sdis assures that the files were "previously unknown to hierarchy". Management said Tuesday that the witnesses were not yet identified.
This highlights the desire of the service to "let nothing pass" in the face "of actions which dishonor firefighters", since 2015's change in governance. The service launched an anti-harassment platform in April, which was managed by a professor of law. It was also strengthened "with a specially-trained collegiate team", its administrative investigative system, she explained.
The North's management of Sdis has also been working to increase the feminization rate of staff. Out of the 2,240 firefighters on duty and the 600 volunteers, there are approximately 100 female firefighters in this department.