Last week FBU officials from every FRS in the UK met in Birmingham to discuss vital issues affecting our members. Clearly, the current consultative ballot on pay and conditions was high on the agenda. We also undertook a detailed discussion on the FBU strategy to defend jobs, win investment and campaign for professional and sustainable pay for FBU members.
It became clear from this discussion that some confusion exists in certain areas of our union around FBU policies on the future of the fire and rescue service. In particular, there appears to be a lack of clarity, in some areas, around the work-streams discussions agreed through the National Joint Council (NJC). I therefore wanted to write to you directly to clarify this.
The NJC consists of two sides; the employers and the employees (FBU). Both sides previously agreed to discuss various areas of fire service work, and to do this through a number of “work-streams” on issues which may affect the future of the fire and rescue service. Discussions also involved an agreement to jointly lobby governments across the UK for additional funding and investment in our service. This lobbying has happened and continues. Some progress has been made in Wales and in Scotland but the main obstacle remains the Westminster government.
It is important to be aware that while the work-streams have discussed new areas of work, they have also discussed long established activities such as the response to flooding and wildfires. Regrettably, these activities - especially in relation to protracted and out of area response - are dealt with differently by different employers. It is precisely this fragmentation that we seek to challenge through our participation in the work-streams. The discussions have also addressed issues around inspection and enforcement; again these are not new areas of activity but are important to making our case. To end such discussions, as had been suggested by some, would make little sense in seeking to achieve investment for our service.
The role of Chief Fire Officers – seeking more fragmentation
Regrettably, some Chief Fire Officers have clearly sought to undermine the lobbying of government ministers. They have argued that new areas of work are already being introduced and that, in many cases, this is being done without pay at a local level - so why would the government invest in the fire and rescue service? This argument is a clear attempt to undermine the NJC and to undermine our attempts to secure funding for the future. These same Chief Fire Officers would rather see a fragmented local implementation of change by imposition instead of clear national agreements through the NJC.
The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has also failed to support any campaign for investment in our service and has played a role in undermining our work to achieve professional pay for FBU members.
The strategy of the FBU should be considered in this wider context. In every single fire and rescue service, firefighters are doing additional work for no additional pay. In the areas of work where additional pay is being offered, members across different FRSs are being paid differently for doing the same additional role – this is clearly not right or fair. We are pursuing a strategy which aims to challenge this local fragmentation, achieve national agreements and ensure serious, professional and sustainable pay proposals for FBU members.
That is why the Executive Council, representing the entire union and basing itself on democratically agreed polices, had unanimously recommended a YES YES vote. In particular the Executive Council recommends a YES vote on Question 2: to challenge fragmentation and to take control of our pay and conditions from those with the agenda of broadening our role locally by stealth.
The Executive Council is clear that a NO vote on the Question 2 would only assist those Chief Fire Officers and local employers who are trying to undermine national collective bargaining and are already responsible for fragmenting our conditions of service. These same people have also been clear that they do not support significant pay rises for firefighters.
Please remember to vote
Whatever your views, please remember to vote. Please remind colleagues to do the same.
Please vote YES and YES
Yours in Unity,