The first national conference of the union’s officers at the Garter Hotel in Putney on 27 June was memorable and historic.
For the first time officers representing every part of the country and every rank from station officer to deputy chief fire officer met in a heated discussion about their working conditions. In total over 50 officers attended. This united atmosphere and more than a few inspirational speeches were ground-breaking in helping to change the service.
In particular, officers were unanimous in in their belief that the future health of the service depended on a quick solution to the problems affecting junior ranks, particularly the firefighter. In the spirit of “an injury to one is an injury to all” and “unity is strength” they supported the claim of junior ranks to improve their pay scales.
They understood that a rise in the pay of junior ranks would – or should – lead to the percentage increase over that amount for officers too. “Here it was understood that a proper scale of remuneration for an officer will only be attained when the firemen achieve proper payment for the value of their labour,” The Firefighter wrote.
Other issues included the fact that, aside from pay, there were no regulations governing officers’ conditions, which gave local authorities the power to dodge the issue. It was noted that fire officers’ working conditions, particularly for residential officers, were “more varied than an English summer”. The conference agreed to policies aimed at improving and standardising officers’ working conditions on the three main issues of pay, hours of duty and allowances.
Their demands were later met with approval by the officers’ committee of the National Joint Council (NJC) and supported by rival organisation the National Association of Fire Officers (NAFO), leading to a united position when the demands were taken to their employers.