Harassment, retribution at City of London prompt 68 to speak out, advocate says

The London Abused Women's Centre has received 68 complaints of 'harassment, abuse and retaliation' from City of London employees in the last week, the executive director says.

'Making a complaint would make my life worse, not better,' one employee says of the fire department

Allegations of harassment and retribution are swirling at the City of London. (Geoff Robins/Canadian Press)

The London Abused Women's Centre has received 68 complaints of 'harassment, abuse and retaliation' from City of London employees in the last week, according to its executive director.

Megan Walker is once again calling for "a culture shift from the status quo" and for the city to retain an organization from outside of London to figure out what is going on and how to move forward. 

CBC News is not able to independently verify the complaints that have come into the Abused Women's Centre. 

However, reporters have spoken to several members of the London Fire Department who outline a "culture of fear" in which employees who complain about the treatment of others are retaliated against. 
The London Fire Department has over 400 members. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

One 30-year-member of the fire department said he was moved out of a hall in which he had worked for a long time after he stood up for a female firefighter. 

The firefighter is a certified extrication trainer but was placed at a fire hall without extrication equipment, he said. He's also not been allowed to participate in a camp for female firefighters as a punishment, he said. 

"Since all of this has come out in the media, my phone has been ringing off the hook with people coming forward to me, but still not wanting to come forward to management because they fear retribution." 

CBC has agreed not to use his name because he fears further retribution for speaking out. 

'Spotlight' on the issue

"This has been so well suppressed by management that even people at City Hall don't know about it. It's not new," the firefighter said. "My hope is that now that the spotlight is on it something is done so other people don't have to endure this kind of abuse." 

The firefighter said he has faith that current city manager Martin Hayward will do something to root out abuse in the fire department and other departments within the city. 

Walker said the calls she has received are not limited to the fire department. 

She provided members of the media with letters from employees at the fire department which were sent to Mayor Matt Brown last weekend and to Hayward on Wednesday. 

"This is a serious issue impacting the lives of many City of London employees from all departments who are both members and non-members of organized labour," Walker wrote in a statement. "City of London employees are members of our community providing valuable services and they have a right to safety in all areas of their lives including their workplace." 

CBC News has reached out to the mayor's office and to the city manager's office for comment. 

Hayward said earlier this week that the city has had policies in place since the early 2000's to support a discrimination and harassment-free workplace.