Equal pay for women in control came into force on 1 January 1972.
From that date women qualified for equal pay at the age of 19 and received incremental increases. The agreement had been reached some years beforehand with the NJC, which agreed that “the principle of equal pay for firewomen with male control room staff” should be fulfilled in three phases over two years.
A debate on equal pay was also held at the union’s 1970 conference in Scarborough. The union noted that equal pay in control was “long overdue on the simple grounds of gross exploitation – the gap between top rate firewomen and top rate control room staff prior to the settlement stands at £3 16s weekly. By January 1972, in three instalments, this gap will have been closed. The 1 January 1970 adjustment of £45 per annum plus any other subsequent pay adjustments for control room staff will have been taken into account and there will be a single rate of pay for control room staff rank for rank. Whatever else, this in its own right is a most welcome event and should be seen as such.”
However, by the union’s own admission the £45-a-year pay increase, which applied to frontline firefighters as well as to control room staff, was “nothing to shout about” and would have been “totally unacceptable” had it been the only effect of the settlement, which included a reduction in hours and overtime pay.
The union also noted that while achieving equal pay was an important victory, the pay of men working in control was still as little as £17.54 per week up to a maximum of £22.32. A letter from FBU members in the Wiltshire Fire Brigade published in The Firefighter in 1970 said:
“December Firefighter told us ‘control room men get the least’. Over the last few years the volume of work and responsibility in the control room has increased considerably. Recently we have been trying to get control staff but are finding it very difficult to attract the right type because of the low wages.”