Firefighter attending house fire stands on scaffolding

A YES/YES vote is crucial to bring back national standards

Pay across the public sector has been capped by the Westminster government for a decade. Cuts to the fire service and jobs have reached record levels, and across the UK – in every single fire and rescue service, firefighters are doing additional work for no additional pay. The fragmentation of the fire service is destroying our profession. That’s why we’re consulting members on the union’s pay strategy, and asking you to vote YES and YES in the current ballot.

The FBU is the only remaining public sector profession with UK-wide collective bargaining. Our union has a proud history of solidarity and our core value is ‘strength in unity’. We are stronger together than we are apart and we will not stand for unequal treatment of our members, wherever they live and work. Some public sector workers already face fragmented pay. Civil servants have over 100 different pay bargaining units. Other public sector unions - teachers, police, nurses, doctors – rely on government led pay review bodies, and if we allow further fragmentation of collective bargaining for firefighters and control staff, then that is what we will get; unelected quangos or local managers determining the pay of hardworking and dedicated FBU members.

Building unity across the service is already a challenge with devolution across four different legislatures. But we should be under no illusion, fragmentation will lead to a race to the bottom, and that’s why we need to defend a UK-wide system of pay and conditions, training and other professional standards.

In an effort to prevent the decimation of national structures for fire service pay, terms and conditions, the FBU started working with employers through the National Joint Council (NJC) on five work-streams. Let me be very clear, these work-streams are not only about new work, but also include the existing work of our members, such as fire safety inspection and enforcement. The NJC is the structure by which the union can best shape the future of the fire service and restore national control through the democratic structures of our union. FBU conference, the supreme government of our union, has repeatedly agreed and endorsed this strategy.

As part of our work with the NJC on environmental challenges, the union has called for and won, a statutory duty for emergency response to flooding in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. We are continuing that campaign in England. The risk of wildfires is increasing, and large numbers of firefighters are often called from across the UK to respond. Through the work-streams, we are discussing the necessary mechanisms, training, resources and conditions of service. Last year, firefighters from many services were asked to travel hundreds of miles to work away from home for days at a time in the north west of England.  They did so under different terms and conditions to the colleagues they worked alongside. That can’t continue, we must set nationally agreed terms and conditions.

Across the UK, 20 fire and rescue services are already undertaking emergency medical response (EMR), with varying levels of remuneration, and with local arrangements imposed by management. The union cannot and should not ignore the developments in fire services across the globe, who have broadened their role to include medical responses. In the United States, 85% of calls are medical response. In Dublin an ambulance has been a part of the brigade’s resource for a hundred years. In France, medically trained workers ride on engines alongside firefighters.

There is no final position on this issue but the union has agreed to examine whether the skills and training provided to firefighters can be utilised to save lives (particularly in relation to cardiac arrests) in cooperation with colleagues in other emergency services. You are not being currently asked to take any final position on these issues. All final decisions on these matters will rest with our members through the democratic structures of the FBU.

The union needs to control and shape the changes to our service and profession or we risk change taking control of us at a local level through imposition. The best way to achieve national standards and democratic accountability is through national bargaining through the NJC. It cannot be right or fair that members in different services are receiving differing pay for the same work. This ballot is the start of our campaign to take on employers and the government; to send a message that we will stand united and will not be weakened.

Whatever, your views – please make sure you vote.

Vote YES and YES

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