Delegates from all parts of the union met in Blackpool in May to debate the issues facing us in the coming period.
The two most urgent debates were around pay and conditions and the challenges of the forthcoming general election.
The years since 2010 have been bleak for firefighters and for all workers in the public sector. Pensions have been attacked, jobs and services destroyed on an unprecedented scale and pay squeezed for the longest period in recent history.
This has left all public sector workers suffering a real cut in living standards.
Over the past few years we have sought to address some of these issues through discussions with our employers.
We have explored the possibility of broadening the role of our service as a possible means to protect it and as a lever to seek to improve pay.
Two difficult areas of these discussions have been the work around MTFA (marauding terrorist firearms attack) and emergency medical response (EMR).
I reported to our delegates that these discussions had reached a crucial stage. We had set out to our employers our position on two vital areas.
First, in relation to EMR trials, that we are alarmed at the lack of progress on addressing the health, safety, operational and training concerns which have been raised by our members locally.
Second, we have been clear from the start of these discussions that the employers also need to address the issue of pay.
We explained to them that the union would not support the continuation of work outside of agreed contracts unless there was commitment to addressing the pay concerns of FBU members.
While some progress had been made on the operational, safety and training concerns, I explained that the executive council was not optimistic that our aims in relation to pay were likely to be met.
The key problem here remains that the government’s pay policy is still in place – restricting increases to 1%.
The NJC is due to meet on 1 June. Our pay settlement is due on 1 July. If there is no progress on pay, FBU members should be prepared for the various agreed trials on new work to cease.
I urge you to follow the developments closely over the next few weeks.
DESTROYING OUR SERVICE AND OUR FUTURES – VOTE THE TORIES OUT
Behind these problems on pay, pensions and jobs lies government policy.
The response of government to the banking crisis of ten years ago has been to make workers pay the price, which they have done via their austerity policies.
In the fire service, central funding has been squeezed as never before, the result being unprecedented job losses.
None of this has done our economy any good. Instead, we are now living through a decade of economic stagnation. Our NHS is at risk of fragmentation and privatisation. Education – despite so called protections – is being slowly but surely undermined and carved up.
Our young people face the prospect of a life of debt should they choose to go to university and they face exceptional challenges when trying to find somewhere decent and affordable to live.
Meanwhile, those at the top have done very well from the past seven years. The richest and biggest corporations have had tax cuts but still refuse to invest in the economy.
If these policies continue, we face a bleak prospect indeed. That is why our conference debate came to a very clear conclusion – that we should urge our members to vote in the general election on 8 June and vote to get rid of the Tories and vote for a Labour government which will start investing in public services.