SUFFOLK FIRE SERVICE - REPORT BY INDEPENDENT MEDIATOR
- In January 2001 the NJC Joint Secretaries sought to conciliate between Suffolk Fire Service and the FBU in the light of a number of differences between them over the operation and application of employment procedures. Following those conciliation talks it was agreed to approach ACAS to appoint an Independent Mediator to conduct a review of procedures at local level.
- The Independent Mediator was Professor Roy Lewis. His terms of reference were: “To consider the operation of and interaction between the Fire Services (Discipline) Regulations, individual grievance procedure, collective disputes procedure, and local harassment procedure in the Suffolk Fire Service and to make any appropriate observations and recommendations that will improve the procedures.”
- Professor Lewis was assisted by the NJC Joint Secretaries acting in the role of assessors. There were three hearings: on 10th July in London and on 17th October and 19th December in Ipswich.
- Paragraphs 43 and 44 of the report relate to differences between the parties concerning the interpretation of Regulation 5 of the Fire Services (Discipline) Regulations. This concerned the question of whether, where an allegation is made against a principal fire officer, the fire authority is under an obligation to call in a principal officer from another authority to conduct an investigation or whether the fire authority can first make a judgement as to whether an offence appears to have been committed before deciding whether a principal fire officer should be brought in to investigate the allegation. Conflicting legal advice had been received by the Fire Authority and the FBU respectively.
- Professor Lewis did not make any recommendation on this matter as the Joint Secretaries had written to the Secretary of State on 10th October requesting his clarification. The Joint Secretaries subsequently met officials at the DTLR on 8th February and a reply from the Secretary of State is awaited.
- Members of the National Joint Council have agreed that the attached report be circulated to authorities for information. A summary of the recommendations can be found at paragraph 2 of the report.
CHARLES NOLDA ANDY GILCHRIST