Use of Silent Witness Footage ICO Complaint

WYFRS has recently used Silent witness footage, we believe, outside of the guidelines provided by the Information Commissioners Office. Details are shown below.

 

WYFRS policy states the intention of the scheme in policy as follows

b) CCTV systems mounted on fire appliances (Silent Witness):

  Reducing crime in the form of assaults/attacks on firefighters by aiding prevention through deterrence and detection. Recordings of any attacks/assaults may be used as evidence against the perpetrators of such attacks

  Reducing crime in the functions outlined under the 2004 Fire and Rescue Services Act by aiding prevention through deterrence and detection. Recordings of any incidents may be used as evidence against perpetrators

  Fire Investigation

  Accident Investigation

  Equipment evaluation

  Providing a training knowledge pool to offer good learning experiences and improvements in operational tactics and command

  Promoting community safety and education utilising the Media

We believe it has been used in several investigations into performance issues outside of the stated intention of the scheme shown above.

In Response to our complaint WYFRS HR Director Ian Brandwood e-mailed this response;

“Paul

The Operational Policy clearly states that both video and audio recording takes place at all times whilst an appliance is operational and that crews should be aware that the equipment records both images and sound in the cab. Therefore all communications must be carried out in a professional manner.  It also can be used for individual training or development needs, which almost by definition requires an assessment of performance.

 

If, during a review of footage for one of the stated purposes, evidence is identified that indicates actual or potential misconduct, the person who has witnessed the conduct cannot be expected to ignore such conduct and has a duty to bring this to the attention of an appropriate senior officer. This officer should consider the nature of the recorded conduct and deal with the matter in accordance with WYFRS procedures.  This is in line with the Part 3 of the ICO’s Employment Practices Code:

 

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1064/the_employment_practices_code.pdf

 

I would like to emphasise that we do not routinely use Silent Witness to look for potential misconduct but it is only sensible that it is used to confirm or deny factual matters that may be subject to an investigation.

 

I do not think that this can be progressed further internally and we have to agree to differ on these matters.  If, as a result of your complaint to the ICO, he expresses concerns about our practice, we will review our procedures.

Regards

Ian”

We have been informed that the rationale provided for accessing the footage was to corroborate information that had previously been provided and determine the appliance movements via the AVLS information and also Silent Witness for any periods that were unexplained such as when the appliance movements had stopped for a period of time.

We are not disputing the fact that WYFRS can, when legitimately reviewing data, use it if there is an issue that comes to light that is so serious they can not ignore it, it is the fact that it has been reviewed in the first place, as part of an investigation into performance, which is not a function of the data collection as stated in the policy. It is certainly not the understanding of the Union or employees of WYFRS that data would be used in this way. This has been sent as a complaint to the Information Commissioners Office to clarify whether WYFRS have acted within the guidelines and legislation and instruct them to comply if necessary.

So please be aware that it is the opinion of WYFRS that they can and will use the data in this way.

As soon as I have a definitive response form the ICO I will post an update.

Paul Drinkwater (West Yorks FBU Chair)

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2015 Firefighters’ Pension Scheme: Transitional Protection Update November 2016

We have previously reported in various circulars, short films and via social media etc that the FBU is currently challenging government in relation to the transitional protection it introduced as part of imposing the 2015 Firefighters’ Pension Scheme.  The listing timescale for our court is still January 2017 although as with all legal cases this may change.

We have also previously reported that there is a similar case in relation to the pension of judges which is slightly ahead of ours. The judges’ case is due to start on 14 November 2016 and is listed until 25 November 2016. We will be keeping a watchful eye on these proceedings and will report anything of significance that could affect our own challenge.

In relation to our challenge we have now completed an examination of all the documentation that has been submitted at this stage by the other parties. This has been a significant task involving a huge amount of information, emails, correspondence etc, contained in almost 50 large A4 folders.

We have also now finalised our initial witness statements on behalf of the FBU and will be submitting these later this week. These are only initial statements at this stage and can be updated or amended in response to any subsequent statement by the other parties.

Our legal team remain confident in our arguments, with the obvious caveat that there are no guarantees when dealing with the legal system and members will be updated regularly as things develop. Any updates will also be posted on the FBU website www.fbu.org.uk

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

Posted in Pension

Thomas review paints an unrecognisable picture of the fire and rescue service

 

Firefighter wearing breathing apparatus

Thomas review paints an unrecognisable picture of the fire and rescue service

The Adrian Thomas review into working conditions of the fire and rescue service has been published some 20 months after its completion. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have said it is incompetent, irrelevant and misleading.

The firefighters’ union always had doubts that the review was truly ‘independent’, and these concerns have deepened following the appointment of the review’s author Adrian Thomas as a government advisor. He is now Deputy Director of the Cabinet Office.

Andy Dark, assistant general secretary of the FBU, said “This review was initiated at a time when tensions between the government were at breaking point, when the dispute over firefighters’ pensions was at its height. The review focuses heavily on a pre-conceived notion that the fire service is rife with bullying, which is far from the truth. Thomas’s section on bullying and harassment paints a picture of a fire and rescue service few firefighters – 85% of all firefighters are FBU members – would recognise. We conducted our own YouGov survey of more than 10,000 firefighters into bullying and harassment over the same period as part of our submission to the review – yes, bullying was a factor of working life but the majority of it was being inflicted on firefighters by fire service management, which is something the review avoided totally.”

Commenting on the fact that the review was completed 20 months ago, Dark, himself a former firefighter of 25 standing, added:

“This review has no relevance for the fire and rescue service, which probably explains why it is has taken almost two years to publish. Its author has no understanding whatsoever of the fire sector, and he clearly made scant effort to gain a grounding in the basics of fire and rescue before writing his review. He fails totally to grasp the massive change that has taken place in the industry, not taking in the expanding role of firefighters to areas such as emergency medical response (EMR), flood rescue or any other work areas currently being progressed. He was a very poor choice of author, and his so called ‘findings’ are incoherent.”

The Thomas Review supports the proposals for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to run fire and rescue services. The FBU is clear there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest the move will bring any improvements at all to the service and would simply bring disorganisation and inexperience into the governance of fire and rescue services. Dark added: “The review advocates measures which will bring further fragmentation of the service, something which has been criticised by many, including the coroner who recently considered the causes of the death of firefighter Stephen Hunt in Manchester. We know that centrally co-ordinated and nationally agreed professional standards with consistent terms and conditions are the way forward for a professionally run service – Thomas’s review flies in the face of common sense and professionalism at every turn.”

“Our hope is that this report, initiated when the fire service came under Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) will be seen for what it is. The Thomas Review is an ill-conceived report, a distraction which has the potential to be counter-productive to the current work being undertaken to expand the role of the fire and rescue service”.

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North Yorks fire authority has seven days to avert industrial action ballot

North Yorkshire Combined Fire Authority have seven days to avert firefighters in North Yorkshire voting for the first time ever locally on whether to take industrial action over a series of cutbacks that will result in fire crews taking up to 30 minutes longer to make it to the scene of an emergency. There are serious concerns for public safety and the safety of firefighters as a result of the impact the cutbacks will have.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said that proposals put forward by the Combined Fire Authority (CFA) to replace six fire engines with smaller Tactical Response Vehicles, which carry as few as two firefighters, will severely extend the amount of time it will take to perform rescues from fires and road traffic collisions. This is because fire crews will have to wait at the scene for more specialised equipment to arrive before performing rescues.

The union has also warned that, due to a chronic shortage of firefighters, scores of fire engines are unavailable at any one time. This again contributes to the slowing emergency response to incidents, which are their longest nationally in two decades at the government’s own admission.

Steve Howley, secretary of the FBU in North Yorkshire, said: “The CFA’s plan will lead to a significant and unacceptable increased risk to the public and to frontline firefighters. Despite public opposition to the plans agreed by the CFA last December and our best attempts to resolve the issues through negotiation with local managers, we have now been forced to put the matter in the hands of the fire authority to try to resolve. If they fail to do so, we are left with no option but to ballot our members for industrial action.”

The FBU have also slammed the CFA for abandoning its promise to phase in the changes over a four-year period, which the union says would have given managers the time to address concerns about the shortage of firefighters and fire engines being unavailable.

Howley added: “The CFA have gone back on their word. Instead of trying to fix the problems, senior managers are pushing ahead with a drastic plan which will end up costing lives. We cannot accept that. The CFA and chief fire officer for North Yorkshire are failing in their duty to provide the effective fire and rescue service the public pay for and deserve.”

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New Online FBU Shop

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www.shop.fbu.org.uk

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Introductory Branch Officials & Handling Members’ Problems

This course “Introductory Branch Officials & Handling Members’ Problems” has been designed by FBU Head Office Education & the TUC Education Service to help Branch Officials improve their skills, update their knowledge and gain confidence as local Officials to organise effectively in their workplace, help members and represent them. During the course there will be opportunities to develop organising and representation skills, find out how to handle members’ problems in the workplace and take up issues and problems with management.

This course will be helpful for FBU officials who may have union responsibilities and functions covered by section 6 of the NJC agreement on Discipline, Grievance & Disputes etc. For example accompanying and representing FBU members at disciplinary hearings or representing members who have requested assistance with a grievance.

Course Aims

The course will help officials to:

 Understand their role and responsibilities as Branch officials

  • Find and use relevant information and resources including union policies, procedures and agreements
  • Improve practical skills including note-taking; interviewing members; running meetings and reporting back
  • Develop a systematic approach to help with handling members’ problems and casework, including helping members with disciplinary issues and grievances.
  • Make use of agreements to take up issues and problems with management

 

Applications

The Regional Official dealing with course applications should complete a separate copy of the application form on behalf of each of the region’s nominees for the course and returned as soon as possible to: Jan Ross, Fire Brigades Union, Bradley House, 68 Coombe Road, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, KT2 7AE, or janr@fbu.org.uk

 

 Course Dates and Times

Monday 9 January 2017 – Wednesday 11 January 2017, at Wortley Hall, Sheffield, S35 7DB

Courses are scheduled to start with registration from 12.00, then lunch at 12.30 on the first day and finish with lunch at 13.00 on the third day, all participants should make arrangements to be at the advertised venue before the starting time on the first day.

 Accreditation

The course is accredited within the TUC Education Service/National Open College Network Programme, FBU Officials completing the course will be able to claim the appropriate credit from the awarding body (NOCN).

For Course Application Form Contact Dave Williams

 

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The Guardian – Firefighters are by your side through fire and flood. Our thanks? The threat of being sacked

Firefighters fighting fire.
 Greater Manchester’s fire service has already had to make £28m in cuts and the government is imposing a further £14.4m over the next four years. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

When you’re a firefighter standing in front of a burning house, you want to go in and rescue whoever is inside, regardless of whether or not you have enough support crew.

The advice from the bosses is not to put ourselves in harm’s way, to wait for that second fire engine to turn up. But when you dial 999, we get there as fast as we can. We are straight into the burning house, or by your side in a car crash, or there to rescue you from dangerous floods. Sometimes we just have to hope that the extra support will turn up as soon as possible.

The day I was given the honour of joining Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, I was over the moon. My father had been a firefighter before me, and I knew I was joining a group of people willing to give their lives for others. So we were all shocked in September when the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service announced plans to sack its entire, 1,250-strong workforce and only re-employ those who agreed to new, 12-hour shifts.

With the help of the public and the Fire Brigades Union,we fought back and thankfully the authority announced last week that it would be withdrawing those plans – for the moment anyway. But we don’t know what the new plans will be, and we’re still worried about the future of the fire service and our ability to keep you safe.

Greater Manchester’s fire service has already had to make £28m in cuts. Over the past six years, the service has taken a massive hit and the government is imposing a further £14.4m over the next four years. Despite a high number of firefighters retiring, a sustained recruitment freeze has meant the number of firefighters is at an all-time low, and so is the number of fire engines available. We have lost 400 posts since 2010, at a time when fire deaths have tripled in Greater Manchester in the past 12 months.

We now have only four firefighters on each truck, when the national standard is five. Normally two trucks will be sent to an emergency call-out but now we only have staff for one truck and have to wait for a neighbouring area to send a support crew. At a house fire, we need two firefighters to go inside, one to operate the pump and an officer in charge, to keep operational oversight. That means that if anyone is brought out of the house, there’s no one to look after them before the ambulance service arrives. That can be a while – they’re just as stretched as we are.

There is a growing crisis of mental health issues affecting those in the fire and rescue service across the country. I have seen things that no person should have to see and lost friends through the worst kind of circumstances due to the pressures of the job. We have had six firefighter suicides in my brigade in four years. Our managers, local authorities and national government should be trying to help us instead of forcing us into a corner.

We all understand the requirement imposed on the brigade to save money, but we need to talk about these matters in an adult, professional way and negotiate an agreed settlement, instead of threatening to sack every firefighter in Greater Manchester.

We all love what we do, we understand the risks of the job, and we understand what is expected of us by the public. But if we lose yet more firefighters and have our resources cut even more, I worry we won’t be able to work effectively to keep you safe.

This series aims to give a voice to the staff behind the public services that are hit by mounting cuts and rising demand, and so often denigrated by the press, politicians and public. If you would like to write an article for the series, contact kirstie.brewer@theguardian.com

Talk to us on Twitter via @Guardianpublic and sign up for your free weekly Guardian Public Leaders newsletter with news and analysis sent direct to you every Thursday.

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New lottery to support families of firefighters killed in action

 

New lottery to support families of firefighters killed in action

A new weekly lottery, The Firefighters 100 Lottery is being launched tomorrow (1 October) to help support the families of firefighters killed or seriously injured in the line of duty. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, 1 October, with the first draw on Bonfire Night, 5 November.

The Firefighters 100 Lottery, which will be run by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) using independent on-line lottery experts Gatherwell Ltd, will give people the opportunity to win thousands of pounds in prize money as well as supporting good causes.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “People might assume that if a firefighter is killed or seriously hurt on the job that their families are automatically taken care of. They would be mistaken. There are significant gaps in the support and financial assistance that the families receive. It is heart-breaking stuff to see bereaved people endure even more suffering, and hardship. We hope the funds raised from this lottery will go a long way to plug those holes in the system.

“You have a much better chance of winning a cash prize playing the Firefighters 100 Lottery than you do from the National Lottery or the health lottery. So why not sign up now, support firefighters and secure a chance to win one of the three guaranteed cash prizes each week, up to a maximum of £25,000”.

Funds raised from Firefighters 100 Lottery will also be used to establish memorials for fallen firefighters as well as making sure the lessons learned from their deaths are not forgotten. This will, the FBU say, better protect the firefighters of today and the public they serve. The lottery will also support research into the physical, mental health and well-being of firefighters, and will offer humanitarian assistance to people affected by fire or disaster.

Participation in the lottery is open to everyone aged 16 or over.

Firefighters 100 Lottery is being launched in the run up to the FBU’s centenary celebrations marking 100 years since the union was formed in 1918.

To enter the lottery go to: www.firefighters100lottery.co.uk

Play the Firefighters 100 Lottery and you will be helping to:

  • Support the families of firefighters killed or seriously injured in the line of duty
  • Honour the bravery and sacrifice of those firefighters killed in the line of duty
  • Promote the lessons to be learnt from firefighter deaths and serious injuries
  • Support research into the physical and mental health and well-being of firefighters and the “all hazards” nature of the modern fire and rescue service
  • Support humanitarian assistance for those affected by fire or disaster
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Fire service withdraws proposals to sack its entire workforce

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has welcomed Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service’s (GMFRS) announcement today that it is not now planning to sack its 1250 strong firefighter workforce. The service withdrew its plans to issue Section 188 notices that would have terminated the firefighters’ contracts of employment – only those who agreed to the new 12 hour shift patterns would have been re-employed.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “This is a very welcome move that will allow both parties to engage in discussions about the detail of the proposals to implement the planned cuts to the service’s budget without the threat of action by either party. The FBU has confirmed that it will participate fully in talks facilitated through the independent Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) with both parties engaging constructively in discussions to ensure the safety of the public.”

The TAP talks will begin Thursday 29 September.

The FBU acknowledges that the proposed changes were the result of continuing cuts by this government.  The GMFRS has already had to make £28 million of cuts, with the government imposing a further £14.4 million over the next four years.

Approximately 20,000 members of the public signed a petition against the plans to dismiss the firefighters.  The FBU’s campaign against the service’s plans to sack and re-engage its firefighters won support across the media.

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Rollcall updates

PENSIONS: FBU UPDATES MEMBERS ON TWO LEGAL CHALLENGES
In a new video Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, gives an update on two legal challenges that the union is fighting in order to protect members pensions.
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SUPPORT CORBYN IN THE LABOUR LEADERSHIP CONTEST
Firefighters are being urged to vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the upcoming leadership election of the Labour party as the FBU believe he is by far the best candidate to safeguard the fire and rescue service.
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NEW MENTAL HEALTH GUIDE LAUNCHED FOR REPS
The FBU has produced a new guide for union reps to help them understand and support those suffering from mental health issues in the workplace.
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WHO IS THE PRIDE OF BRITAIN’S EMERGENCY SERVICES?
Every year, Pride of Britain asks us if we know an unsung hero. And the answer is that we all do, even if we don’t know their names.
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FIREFIGHTERS RALLY ROUND FOR COLLEAGUE’S SICK SON
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