Union secures pay parity for on-call Scottish firefighters

Retained firefighters in Scotland, also known as “on-call” firefighters, will be paid the same as their whole-time counterparts for rescuing the public from water and heights, in a major victory for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU). Previously, retained firefighters in Scotland were paid just a quarter for facing the same dangers.

As well as tackling fires, firefighters rescue people from a range of non-fire incidents including people trapped at heights and from water. Scottish firefighters rescued 3,000 people from non-fire incidents last year, seven times the number rescued from fires.

Water rescues and “line rescues”, which involve specialist ropes and harnesses to rescue people trapped at a height, are not part of a firefighter’s core role. Firefighters in Scotland trained in these specialist areas are paid an additional fee, known as an additional responsibility allowance (ARA).

Until now, retained firefighters were paid 25% of the ARA paid to whole-time firefighters. The FBU argued that this was fundamentally unfair, as all firefighters face the same risks rescuing people from water and heights.

Retained firefighters in Scotland were unwilling to face additional danger for so little compensation. Faced with potentially seeing Scotland left without on-call cover for water and line rescues, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service agreed to the FBU’s demand for pay parity.

Denise Christie, FBU Scottish regional secretary, said:

“We welcome this recognition of pay parity from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. Firefighters are rescuing more people each year, with non-fire rescues in Scotland rising rapidly. When rescuing someone trapped in water or from a height, it is irrelevant if the firefighter is whole-time or retained – they are trained to do exactly the same specialist job and should be remunerated equally. The union will continue to stand up for retained firefighters who play a crucial role in our fire and rescue service.”

There are two main categories of firefighter; whole-time firefighters who are paid a salary to work full-time and retained firefighters, also known as “on-call” firefighters, who are paid a base-line salary as well as an hourly rate for attending incidents. Both categories undergo the same training to respond to incidents.

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