SIX PEOPLE have been sacked and one has resigned from two branches of a funeral services company following secret recordings showing staff making racist comments and disrespecting the dead.
The funeral services workers, from Gillman Funeral Service branch in Tooting southwest London and another branch in Slough, lost their jobs after an inquiry carried out by parent company Funeral Partners Limited (FPL).
Staff members were investigated after racist and disrespectful behaviour was captured by undercover journalists and shown on ITV’s Exposure programme, The British Way of Death . The show was aired on September 26, causing huge public outcry.
In a statement, Funeral Partners Ltd said five staff members from Gillman’s Tooting branch were sacked. FPL added: ‘One other person has also been dismissed and a second has resigned at an FPL branch in Slough after making racist comments.’
Two of them were sacked for making racist comments while the others lost their jobs over disrespecting the dead, the company said.
Among the incidents seen on ITV's Exposure were:
• Family members being called ‘animals’ at an African Caribbean man’s funeral after his widow complained about an "awful" smell at her own husband's funeral. The body had been left unrefrigerated for six days, according to the programme description on ITV news.
• Funeral staff chanting 'Chelsea scum' at a corpse before sealing his coffin
• Staff failing to dress the deceased in clothes their loved ones had provided for them and
• Staff watching pornography on a mobile phone while driving a hearse
FPL’s chief executive Phillip Greenfield said: "Their comments and actions disgusted not only myself and their fellow colleagues but rightly incurred the wrath of the whole community.
"I want to reiterate my heartfelt apology to everyone who has been affected by this, especially families of the deceased in our care. We are extremely sorry for any distress and hurt that has been caused.
"Having followed due legal process, we have dismissed six people and one has resigned. We have also commissioned an independent inquiry to look into this."
Greenfield added: ‘We want to work with all our local community organisations to build bridges. We know it will take time but we will do everything we can to rebuild trust in our staff and in the services we offer."
FPL, which said it acquired Gillman’s six branches two years ago, said the sacked staff was not following FPL’s policies and procedures. The company said was putting in additional procedures including a new training programme.
Greenfield said: “It has become clear to us that these staff were not following our very clear policies and procedures about respecting the deceased. We will be introducing a new training programme throughout our business and improved HR procedures along with additional investment to ensure this never happens again."
Veteran anti-racism campaigner, Lee Jasper, who co-chairs BARAC UK, has called for legislation to be strengthened to tackle bigotry in the funeral services sector following the programme.
He told the Voice in September that what he saw was “profoundly disturbing. The desecration of the dead, the most toxic racism and sexism against a backdrop of extortionate pricing will case deep and profound distress.”