Service for the 60s.

FBU conference carries A Service for the Sixties on modern role of firefighters

To judge the success of the campaign, one need look no further than the fire service today, which the charter was undoubtedly pivotal in shaping. The union’s mantra was to “change the service into a modern fire protection, fire fighting force”.

In part, it wanted to bring conditions and wages up to a level that reflected the skilled nature of modern firefighting. Thus the charter fought for “up-to-date conditions of employment in keeping with the skilled profession they pursue”, including a 48-hour week and establishing pay scales to attract good-quality recruits.

The proposals noted technological and social changes and their effect on the fire service. It outlined things that were now required, such as continuous training, and things that were no longer required, such as firefighters being expected to do the job of cleaners and polishers. The abolition of cleaning was a drawn out process, and in 1964 firefighters were still cleaning toilets and windows and polishing brass.

By the late 1960s, however, changes had come and finally routine chores were beginning to be replaced by more relevant duties like extending fire inspection and safety. The issue of pay, as usual, had mixed success. A public campaign in 1962 led to a pay rise that was over average male weekly earnings, but by 1966 this lead was lost and they were back behind average wages. However as FBU general secretary John Horner noted in a barnstorming speech introducing the charter at the union’s conference that year:

“Nobody believes, surely, that the ambitious programme which is set out here is going to be achieved in the space of a few months. It is going to take long, persistent agitation and activity on the part of this union.”

The document was adopted with the unanimous support of the firefighters’ conference.

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