Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/9/2020 (687 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service is investigating social media posts by employees that allegedly contained racist and sexist content, offences the service says could trigger penalties that range up to termination.
A Sept. 18 memo written by WFPS chief John Lane, which was obtained by the Free Press, notes the service had issued social media guidelines for its employees, which were meant to ensure a diverse and welcoming workplace. Lane wrote that it took place in the midst of worldwide discussions about "racism, sexism, prejudice, and other threats to these core values."
"Unfortunately… it is apparent that unacceptable behaviours continue on social media and occasionally among individuals. Instances have recently been brought to our attention. This is profoundly disappointing for me, both professionally and personally," Lane wrote.
“Unfortunately… it is apparent that unacceptable behaviours continue on social media and occasionally among individuals." –John Lane
The WFPS memo states that the incidents will be investigated, noting employees who have violated the city’s code of conduct and/or other rules may face discipline "up to and including termination of employment."
Lane also urges all staff to report any behaviour that doesn’t meet city standards and notes a third party will be sought out to ensure that process is confidential.
The Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union (MGEU), which represents Winnipeg paramedics, said members have complained about racist and/or sexist posts by other WFPS staff, as well as some in-person interactions.
Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU’s president, said the issue has been reported since at least June, so the city must quickly move to address it.
"People should be thinking about the effect of what they’re putting up on social media at all times." –Michelle Gawronsky
"It definitely is not stopping. We’ve been able to provide the employer with documents showing that. And so we are looking for some action now," said Gawronsky.
She said WFPS must do something promptly to ensure better workplace conditions, an effort that could start with staff education.
"Frontline paramedics, in fact all workers, have the right to go to work and feel safe and secure in their jobs and not have to put up with any racism or sexism," said Gawronsky.
The union leader said she believes the city must address all of the complaints, including those linked to personal social media accounts.
"When… it’s hurting other people, it is not acceptable at all. People should be thinking about the effect of what they’re putting up on social media at all times," she said.
Alex Forrest, president of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg union, declined to comment, stating he had little knowledge of the investigation.
In an emailed statement, WFPS spokesperson Kristin Cuma did not answer specific questions about the number or nature of the complaints, the number of employees affected or the timeline of the investigation.
"No information will be provided about specific human resources matters involving individuals," wrote Cuma.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.