Our conference last week discussed the latest developments in relation to pay and conditions and the most recent discussions with our employers. These are reaching a crucial stage and the next few weeks will be important in assessing whether any progress can be made.
You will recall that our discussions on pay and conditions have developed around five work-streams set up by the National Joint Council (NJC). These were established to examine the areas of activity where the fire and rescue service had already taken on new work and other areas where further expansion might take place. The position of the union throughout these discussions has been that such work must be sustainable (i.e. have adequate funding); that safety and operational standards must be set; and that the issue of pay must be addressed. We have always warned that, with the background of unprecedented cuts to fire service funding, these discussions were not at all guaranteed to succeed. Although there are five work-streams, the most challenging areas of discussion have been around MTFA and emergency medical response (EMR).
Our conference had been re-called as recently as March this year. Immediately following that special conference, discussions were held with employers’ representatives where the various concerns of the FBU were set out. At this stage these focussed on:
- The failure (in some but not all fire and rescue services) to address the safety, training and other operational concerns of FBU members relating to EMR trials.
- The need to address the issue of sustainability – including the key issue of pay. The union had been clear with the employers from the start of the discussions that the pay and conditions of our members were central for us in taking forward any of these discussions.
At our conference last week, we reported that some progress had been made in relation to the operational, training and safety concerns regarding EMR. A technical working group has been established with employers’ representatives and this has made some progress, although the work is by no means complete.
However, the issue of pay and conditions remains unresolved. We explained to conference that the Executive Council is not optimistic that the fire service employers will seriously attempt to address the concerns of our members. Instead, they appear likely to maintain adherence to the government policy restricting pay to a maximum of 1% increases. If they adopt this short-sighted approach, they will completely ignore the issue of new work, new skills and new responsibilities – evidence clearly identified during the trials.
We are aware that there are various employers’ meetings taking place at this time which will be considering these matters, and we hope a constructive approach emerges, but this is not guaranteed. The National Joint Council will meet in York on 1st June. Our pay settlement is due on 1st July. Members should follow closely the developments around these issues during these few weeks.
In relation to the various trials of EMR work, the last meeting of the NJC agreed an extension beyond February. During this phase, we have been clear with the employers that no new trials should be established, nor should existing trials be expanded (i.e. more stations added). These are trials and are not permanent arrangements. We have made clear to the employers that if they seek any further extension of trials beyond the June NJC, they would need to make such a request and explain the grounds for their request, including how they intend to address our concerns about pay. Our conference was clear that if the employers do not address both aspects of our concerns (on operational matters and on pay) then the agreed NJC trials would come to an end.
For your information, I attach the emergency resolution agreed by FBU conference. Please follow the FBU website and monitor circulars for further reports.