FIRE chiefs say they are working hard to recruit firefighters from ethnic backgrounds despite low numbers working on Wearside.
There are just three firefighters who come from a mixed ethnic background compared to 183 white British frontline officers serving the city.
In the past, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service had to meet specific targets for recruiting those from an ethnic background, however this changed following the establishment of the Coalition Government in 2010.
Figures obtained by the Echo show there are no Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani or African frontline officers.
Union bosses blame a recruitment freeze that has prevented the service from attracting applicants from differing backgrounds, while Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service say they continue to be pro-active in working towards a diverse workforce.
Deputy chief fire officer John Hindmarch said: “Whilst there are no longer any national targets for the diversity of staff we still see this as a priority and have local targets.
“Having a workforce that represents the diversity of our local community brings benefits internally and externally as we are able to help make people safer from fire.
“Our work in this area has been recognised regionally and nationally and we’ve undertaken a number of activities to help diversify our workforce, including as positive action recruitment events, our firefighter recruitment campaign, dedicated community safety advocates, local football programmes, hosting conferences, for example with the North East Asian Business Forum, and a community engagement film.”
Dave Turner, Fire Brigade Union (FBU) spokesman, said that while recruitment from mixed backgrounds had been a historic problem for the service on a national level, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service had bucked the trend in recruitment efforts.
He added: “They are one of the few services who are actively recruiting volunteers who are seeking out hard-to-reach groups and we are proud they are still doing this.”
Information also obtained by the Echo revealed that, in the last 12 months, the service sanctioned the dismissal of a worker after a charge of “inappropriate comments of a racial nature” were investigated.
Mr Hindmarch added: “We will not tolerate any form of discrimination.
“Ensuring the diversity of our workforce continues to be a priority for us, whether that’s in gender, race, disability or any of the legally-protected characteristics.”