Pay and conditions discussions at the National Joint Council
Over the past few years, FBU conference has set out a strategy to try to address the future of the fire and rescue service; the type of work and activities which the service is undertaking, or could undertake. This also needs to address, of course, the appropriate pay and conditions which should go with such work. The background to these debates is the period of the worst cuts to the service in modern history as well as attacks on firefighters pay, conditions and pensions.
These discussions have taken place at the National Joint Council (NJC) and through five work-streams. These work-streams have looked at:
1. Environmental challenges – e.g. flooding, inland water safety, snow, wild fires.
2. Emergency medical response (EMR) – e.g. co-responding, falls, on-site trauma care, provision of community training.
3. Multi agency emergency response – e.g. MTFA, joint working, issues falling out of JESIP.
4. Youth and other social engagement work – e.g. arson reduction, working with risk of offending youth groups.
5. Inspections and enforcement – e.g. schools, illegal homes, crown properties, expansion of unregulated business use, related fire safety advice.
As you will be aware, the Executive Council has re-called our conference on 21 March to discuss the developments around these five areas of discussion. In advance of this a great deal of further information is expected which will form the background to the discussions at our conference.
- FBU concerns over EMR: The union has surveyed all brigades participating in EMR trials. This has revealed a significant range of concerns over operational and other issues about how the trials have been conducted. These include concerns about training, safety, mobilising policies, mental health and welfare and various other matters. More detailed information will follow on this shortly.
- Independent assessment of EMR trials: The NJC jointly commissioned an external review of the various EMR trials. This was done through the University of Hertfordshire. Due to reasons beyond the control of either side, this report has been delayed. It is due imminently and will contain important information for all parties (and all FBU members) to consider.
- FBU pay research: The union has commissioned research about the impact of government pay policy on the living standards of FBU members. This is currently being finalised and information on this will follow shortly.
- FBU pay research – job evaluation: The union has also commissioned research into job evaluation, taking account of the changes to the work of firefighters over the past decade as well as areas of potential new work activity under consideration.
- Discussions with fire service employers: Both sides of the NJC have been awaiting the report from the University of Hertfordshire. It is agreed that further discussion around the work-streams should take place rapidly once this report is published.
- Discussions with politicians – funding: The background to the discussions at the NJC is a crisis in funding for the fire and rescue service. Without additional funding the current attacks on the service, jobs, pay and conditions will continue. A key element of the strategy agreed by our conference is the lobbying of politicians for the resources necessary to deliver a genuinely modern fire and rescue service – with the pay and conditions which go along with this.
It will be no surprise that this lobbying of politicians is the most difficult part of the process. Since fire and rescue policy is a devolved matter, resolving the issues we face requires engagement from ministers in all parts of the UK as well as a shift in thinking at Westminster. None of us will be under any illusion about the challenges this poses.
It is important that FBU members are aware of the various elements of these discussions so that delegates to our conference make an informed decision based on an assessment of all aspects of these discussions as well as our own aims in terms of the future of our service, jobs, pay and conditions.