FBU asks Manchester Fire Brigade Chief for series of undertakings by 4pm tomorrow as union organises meeting to discuss industrial action

The Fire Brigades Union has asked Manchester fire boss Barry Dixon for a series of undertakings by 4pm tomorrow. The union accuses the Fire Authority of trying to force through changes to working practices without agreement.

Kevin Brown Manchester FBU Brigade Secretary:

“If they want change all they have to do is sign the national agreement. Instead their national representatives – including those from Greater Manchester Fire Authority - have dragged their feet for more than 7 months.

“They have dithered and delayed. It is now time to sign up and pay up. If they don’t then they cannot expect the changes they demand.

“In Manchester local managers have jumped the gun. With no national agreement there will be no changes at local level. The national employers could and should have agreed it months ago but have chosen not to. That is their decision and their problem.

“The new terms and conditions under discussion at national level have not been agreed and do not form part of our terms and conditions of employment. The new working practices outlined in the June 2003 Agreement have not been accepted by the employers although they are agreed in principle.

“It is unacceptable for the Authority to seek to force us to undertake duties referred to in the June 2003 Agreement whilst that Agreement is incomplete and suspended due to the actions of the national employers. Likewise it is unacceptable to seek to prematurely introduce new terms and conditions which have not been agreed and which do not apply.”

The Incident Response Unit forms part of the New Dimensions project under discussion and in respect of which agreement has not been reached. IPDS roles and responsibilities are not agreed and ranks and existing duties of employment remain.

Community Fire Safety was voluntary and was under discussion within the framework established by the June 2003 Agreement. The provision of defibrillators by the Authority and training of members upon their use is a new working practice also introduced within that framework and to be expanded upon as part of that process.

In spite of the collapse of the framework established by the June 2003 Agreement, the Authority has sought to implement the new working practices and terms and conditions referred to and previously under discussion. It has done so on the basis that we are compelled to undertake such duties and that failure to do so will be punished outside of the Fire Service Discipline Regulations established by statute and forming part of member’s terms and conditions of employment.

This punishment has been by an immediate and summary refusal to pay those members who have also been sent home and required to complete an undertaking before being allowed to return. Those members have been given no opportunity to see the case against them, present their own case in defence, challenge the Authority’s allegations through an appointed representative and pursue appeals against finding or award.

Our members do not accept this unwarranted and confrontational approach. They require an undertaking in the following terms and subsequent compliance with that undertaking:

1 That all working practices introduced since June 2003 will be withdrawn.

2 That all equipment introduced since June 2003 will be withdrawn save as regards replacement or updating of previous equipment which has been agreed as such by FBU on behalf of members.

3 The withdrawal of defibrillators and the Incident Response Unit.

4 That community fire safety work shall be by voluntary consent only and members volunteering may withdraw their consent at any time.

5 The immediate discontinuation of training or other preparatory work for equipment or work within 1 to 4 above.

6 Recognition that before any new working practices or equipment are introduced, it shall require agreement with FBU on behalf of members.

7 Withdrawal of the policy of punishing members by stoppage of pay, discharge home and requirement to sign an undertaking as to their duties. Instead an acceptance by the Fire Authority that no member will be subject to discipline except under the Fire Services Discipline Regulations.

8 Immediate return to duties on full pay for all members sent home without pay. Any deductions of pay made good in full for those members including members who return to duty in any event. An assurance that such members will not be subject to any form of victimisation.

Unless and until the undertaking outlined is provided covering all 8 points in precisely the terms set out a trade dispute exists between FBU members employed by the Authority and the Authority. This dispute plainly relates to the terms and conditions of employment and/or working conditions of FBU members employed by the Fire Authority.

Further questions as to the duties of employment of FBU members arise as do matters of discipline and the machinery for negotiation or consultation and other procedures relating to these matters. This dispute will be resolved if the Authority issues the undertaking outlined covering all 8 points in precisely the terms set out.

The union has given the authority until 4pm tomorrow to respond. If they do not then representatives from emergency fire control and all stations will meet in Manchester tomorrow to determine the type of industrial action to be called for in the event of the FA failing to agree to give these undertakings. This will include forms of industrial action including strike action following a ballot of members.

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