Update: The Executive Council met yesterday (24 July) following consultation with members on the employers proposals on pay and conditions

Dear Brother/Sister

 

Pay and conditions – proposals inadequate

 

The Executive Council met yesterday (24 July) following consultation with members on the employers proposals on pay and conditions.

 

As a result of this consultation with members I can confirm that the FBU finds the employer proposals on pay inadequate in their current form. The Executive Council was clear that, in line with the policy of our conference, we remain committed to continuing discussions on the broadened and broadening role of the FRS, including making the case to government/s for sustainable funding. The FBU remains committed to lobbying around this issue and doing so jointly with employers where appropriate.

 

The Executive Council has continued to receive reports in relation to the NJC trials on EMR. There remain numerous reports of local trials where employers have failed to address the operational, safety and welfare issues set out very clearly by us at NJC meetings and elsewhere this year. This is in clear breach of the requirements the FBU set out to the employers at a national level. The employers have also failed to adequately address the concerns of the union on pay and conditions. Therefore the Executive Council concluded that there can be no agreement to further extend the NJC trials. We have informed the employers therefore that the trials will cease on 24 August. Further advice on this will follow.

 

The union is clear that there will be no local agreements on the issue of EMR and that attempts to bypass this by local employers will only exacerbate an already difficult position. We have therefore advised local officials to alert us to any such attempts through the Executive Council member.

 

We have informed the employers of our position and will await their response.

 

Best wishes.

 

Yours fraternally

 

Matt Wrack

General Secretary

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Firefighters pay offer video update

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Firefighters’ union declares new pay offer inadequate

We will be arranging branch meeting to discuss the following over the next 2 weeks. Please attend.

 

A four year pay settlement offered to firefighters has today been deemed inadequate by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) who say it fails to address the concerns of members.

While the firefighters’ union acknowledges that the move is the first public sector pay offer to breach the 1% pay cap, they say the offer fails to take into account the extra work firefighters have taken on in recent years, including responding to new types of terror attacks and medical emergencies.

The Fire & Rescue Services National Employers has offered a settlement that would give firefighters a 2% basic pay increase from July this year and a potential further 3% increase in April 2018, with the door open for further increases in 2018, 2019 and 2020, but with no guarantees set out.  Any payment for a 2017 settlement needs to be paid earlier and within the same year, say the FBU.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “Firefighters have endured seven years of pay restraint imposed by the government. Their real wages are falling and our members are struggling to make ends meet. Firefighters have, in addition, taken on many new roles that are not being recognised in their pay.

“It is sickening to hear politicians praising firefighters for the outstanding work they do every day of their working lives only to be told they have to tighten their belts as a result of economic problems caused by bankers.

“This offer demonstrates that the 1% cap is dead in the water but the offer from our employers is simply not enough. It does not recognise the extra work firefighters have been doing, it fails to address their falling living standards and, despite hints at improvements, does not make clear what they will be earning in future years. This offer lacks detail and credibility”.

Pay in the fire and rescue service is not covered by a pay review body but is subject to collective bargaining through the National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services (NJC).

FBU members will now consider the offer at local meetings. The union’s executive council will meet again on 24 July to discuss the results of this consultation.

Circular: 2017HOC0342MW

Dear Brother/Sister

Employers’ proposals on pay

The Executive Council met yesterday and received a proposal on pay from the fire service employers. It is important to note that this is the first proposal on pay within the public sector which does not apply a 1% cap to a proposal for an annual pay rise. The Executive Council acknowledged this movement. The Executive Council also recognised that the proposal opened the door to a further increase for 2017 and for the years beyond that – although no figures were attached in relation to 2018, 2019 and 2020. In the light of this, the Executive Council concluded that the proposal did not address the concerns which the union has raised through our claim.

The issue of pay is one for FBU members to decide and, in accordance with our policy, there will now be a period of consultation with members. As part of this process, all branchesshould meet and should ensure consultation with all members. Brigade officials will ensure the returns from this discussion will be collated and reported to Regional Committees. The Executive Council will meet on 24 July to consider the outcome.

The position and recommendation agreed by the Executive Council is set out below:

2017 Proposals on Pay

The Executive Council has received the attached proposal from the employers on NJC pay and conditions.

The policy of the FBU, agreed by Conference, is that this matter must now be subject to consultation with members. Members must be given 21 days to consider the employers proposal. The Executive Council will consider the result of this on 24 July in order to meet the 21 days requirement.

The Executive Council has considerable concerns with the proposal from the employers and recommends to members that, in its current form, is not acceptable.

The Executive Council:

1.    Welcomes the acknowledgement by the fire service employers that firefighters deserve to be paid more and the departure from the previous approach to pay.

2.    Welcomes the acceptance by the employers that a 1% pay offer is not viable and would not be acceptable to FBU members.

3.    Welcomes the commitment from the employers to lobby governments across the UK for funding to ensure the viability of the fire and rescue service, including the new areas of work discussed by the National Joint Council.

4.    Believes that the proposal presented so far does not adequately address the concerns of FBU members.

5.    In particular, the idea of a payment for 2017 (the proposed Stage 2 payment) being delayed until April 2018 is not acceptable. The payment of any further increase for 2017 must be implemented earlier and during 2017.

6.    Equally, a delay in resolving other major issues – including the pay settlements for 2018, 2019 and 2020 – is not acceptable. The settlement of pay increases for 2018, 2019 and 2020 must also be agreed at a far earlier stage – and by no later than the end of November 2017- a date identified by the FBU re-call conference in March 2017.

We seek the urgent response from the employers while our consultation with members takes place. As a part of this consultation we recommend to members that, if the concerns we have raised are not addressed, we will conclude that the employers do not wish to progress with the joint initiatives agreed through the NJC and the NJC trials will therefore cease.

Yours fraternally

 

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

Posted in Pay

Branch Meetings at Cookridge and Moortown over new cuts proposals

Planning permission has been refused for the proposed site for the Cookridge Moortown Station merger. Management are now proposing that Cookridge becomes retained and Moortown becomes day crewed. This puts another huge hole in fire cover due to the knock on effects of the other station closures and downgrades that have already taken place.

Cookridge meeting is on Wednesday 5th July and Moortown is on Thursday 6th. Please attend.

We have the full support of the Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton and the newly elected Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel to oppose these cuts to our safety and the safety of our local communities.

 

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Dispute over breach of Data Protection in West Yorkshire

We have lodged a dispute with the Chief Fire Officer of WYFRS over their misuse of the “Silent Witness” policy and CCTV policy, both of which resulted in a breach of the Data Protection Act according to the Information Commissioners Office. As a result of that dispute, we have a meeting scheduled for the 23rd March.
Disappointingly, instead of hearing the dispute himself, our Chief has delegated that responsibility to the Director of HR Ian Brandwood.

As always we keep you as informed as possible.

 

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West Yorkshire FBU SECURE FAIR HOLIDAY PAY FOR RDS STAFF

Firstly I just wanted to thank, both old and new members at Ilkley for raising an issue regarding holiday pay for our RDS members, without it we would never have been able to challenge the misery and wrong holiday pay given to our members after attending courses at FSHQ.
Once we found out that our members pay was wrong we challenged it, informally at first. Despite it being clear in both the Grey book and local policy some managers believed the pittance that our members were given was correct.
At yesterday’s HR committee the head of HR was in agreement with the FBU and therefore our new members, who have recently been on a course, will very shortly receive a substantial payment in respect of loss of holiday pay.

Can you make all our RDS members aware of this victory and I’m sure you join me in congratulating our members at Ilkley in raising it in the first place.

Yours in unity

David Williams
WYFBU Brigade Secretary

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Private money, public mayhem

 

Private money, public mayhem


It would be unacceptable and emotive for any politician to announce in public plans to privatise the UK fire service. Politicians accept that, despite the sustained government sponsored attacks on firefighters in the media, FBU members are still held in very high regard by the public for the work they do protecting their communities.

Politicians have no option but to deny any plans for privatisation. In 2010 the then fire minister, Brandon Lewis, responded to claims that the government was considering the privatisation of the fire service, saying they were “entirely untrue”. At the same time, Mr. Lewis was working actively to support the concept of local mutuals and cooperatives in the UK fire service, most notably in Cleveland.

The public perception of privatisation is usually of some form of “competitive” bidding process, leading to wholesale sell-offs, such as the Tote to Betfred in 2011, or of public flotations on the stock market, like Royal Mail in 2013 and 2015, or a franchise agreement, such as East Coast trains in 2015.

If privatisation is not seen to be taking place in this way, it allows politicians to deny that there any priva­tisation plans. Any other means to partially privatise a fire service goes overlooked.

Before 2002, when Professor Sir George Bain was asked by the government to conduct a wide-ranging review of the UK fire service, privatisation would not have been possible. To attract private investment, operating costs have to be driven down, industry regulations moderated and opposition minimised. Bain’s report, the Independent Review of the Fire Service, led to rapid changes to fire and rescue services, and was the basis of what eventually became the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004.

Bain’s terms of reference were described in September 2002 as: “… having regard to the changing and developing role of the fire service in the United Kingdom, to inquire into and make recommendations on the future organisation and management of the Fire Service”.

LONG JOURNEY

Bain’s report was unpopular with firefighters. A long period of industrial action began in 2002 and continued until 2003 when a new pay and conditions package was agreed. This overhaul of pay and conditions was the first step of a long journey down Privatisation Road. Like any such journey, there is a beginning, but how you get to the end is a matter of choice and interpretation.

THIS OVERHAUL OF PAY AND CONDITIONS WAS THE FIRST STEP OF A LONG JOURNEY DOWN PRIVATISATION ROAD.

Politicians point to Cleveland and champion its proposed mutual model, supposedly based on the John Lewis Partnership, giving each employee part-ownership of the company, a share of its annual profits, and a say in how it is run. In theory, it encourages employees to be more invested – literally – in their work, and so heightens productivity and profits.

At least, that’s how it is supposed to work at John Lewis. Critics argue that the proposals either pay lip service to the scheme on which they are supposedly based – or are simply a way of making privatisation seem soft and fluffy.

The limiting of the fire service’s statutory duty to perform certain tasks is another way to make privatisation a more attractive proposition. This may explain the reluctance of the government to include flooding as a statutory duty for the fire service in England and Wales (it is already a statutory duty in Scotland and Northern Ireland).

Depending on local contractual arrangements, this would, in effect, allow a private fire provider to choose whether to attend flood incidents.

OUTSOURCING

Outsourcing or contracting out some of a fire service’s function is another way to part privatisation by the back door. The Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 allows for fire and rescue authorities to enter such agreements to secure assistance to discharge their functions.

These arrangements can only take place in relation to firefighting if “the person employs firefighters”. The legislation does not state that firefighters have to be public sector workers.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service has done exactly this with the outsourcing of its water rescue capability. In 2012, Specialist Group International (SGI) signed a 12-month pilot contract with Surrey County Council to provide a diving service, rope, confined space and swift-water rescue capability for the fire service. As part of this contract, SGI is to provide fire cover at times of industrial action.

Described by the government at the time as “an experiment”, the pilot was extended to 2015 and, at the time of writing, was ongoing.

Peter Faulding, managing director of SGI, would not put a figure on the value of the contract, but suggested that the FBU was wrong when it estimated it was worth more than £1m a year.

Surrey FBU officials have said that 35 full-time firefighters could be hired for that – at a time when there was a shortage of about 60 in the county.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Authority (CFRA), meanwhile, is using private contractor Serco to provide cover for its chronic shortages of firefighters.

TOTAL FAILURE

CFRA freely admits that up to 18 fire engines can be unavailable at any one time because of staff shortages and is prepared to turn to the private sector to cover this shortfall.

This blurring of the public/private sector partner­ship arrangement was employed to launch what many saw as the privatisation of fire control rooms.

The attempted replacement of the 46 fire and rescue services’ control rooms across England with nine “purpose-built” regional control centres, linked by a new IT system, was a total failure.

AUTHORITY ADMITS THAT UP TO 18 FIRE ENGINES CAN BE UNAVAILABLE – COVERS WITH PRIVATE SECTOR

The Department for Communities and Local Government cut its losses by terminating the contract in December 2010, seven years after it had begun, but at least £469m has been wasted.

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, lambasted the scheme saying: “This is yet another example of a government IT project taking on a life of its own, absorbing ever-increasing resources without reaching its objectives.

“The rationale and benefits of a regional approach were unclear and badly communicated to locally accountable fire and rescue services, who remained unconvinced. Essential checks and balances in the early stages of the project were ineffective.

UNREALISTIC

“It was approved on the basis of unrealistic estimates of costs and under-appreciation of the complexity of the IT involved and the project was hurriedly imple­mented and poorly managed.”

Another flawed concept in the patchwork of priva­tisation is that of transferring assets into third party ownership, a mistake that cost both London and Lincolnshire fire brigades dear.

Both transferred the provision and maintenance of their vehicles to a company called AssetCo. Only days after settling a £4m bill from HMRC in relation to unpaid VAT and PAYE, the company was facing a winding up petition orchestrated by its own lawyers for outstanding fees. Part of the resulting business restruc­ture saw AssetCo selling its entire UK fleet for just £2.

AssetCo said it left its UK business because the management team believed that operations were “based on a flawed business structure”, which was why shareholders lost so much money.

Another transfer of assets that could have gone badly wrong for several brigades involves Cosalt Plc, a non-trading holding company purported to be a market leader in the supply and service of workwear to the emergency services. Several UK fire services had contracts with the company.

In the week Cosalt was due to take over management of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s contract for PPE, the company went into administration. Only a last-minute deal put together by joint administrator David Kelly (from PriceWaterhouseCoopers) saved the outsourcing of these assets. PWC sold shares in Ballyclare Limited, the remaining part of Cosalt Plc’s trading business to David Ross, the majority shareholder in Cosalt Plc. An interesting turn of events.

The latest privatisation trend is one that was first identified in the USA in the 1980s and is described as “privatisation by attrition”. In America, this was defined as “defunding specific government functions pushing them into the private sector”.

MANY FORMS

In today’s Britain, this is couched in the language of austerity, budgetary constraints and modernisation. As the FBU observed in 2016: “The Westminster government intends to cut its funding to the fire and rescue service by 20% during this parliament. In the last parliament they cut it by 30%. Since 2010, 10,000 frontline firefighter jobs have gone – that is one in six.”

In 2002 the Bain Report opened the door to privati­sation in the UK fire service. It comes in many forms – some can be stand alone, some can be blended into something that, while it doesn’t feel like privatisation, is a definite step towards it.

We have travelled a long way down the murky road to privatisation, and the most important question now is which brigade will try to fully privatise first?

All efforts to hive off any element of the fire and rescue service must be resisted with vigour. A fully privatised fire and rescue service is not something any firefighter wants to see and they and the public they serve should be doing everything they can to prevent it.

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University report into emergency medical response published

Firefighters have attended over 42,000 medical emergencies since co-responding trials commenced in late 2015, a University of Hertfordshire report has found.

The Broadening Responsibilities report was commissioned by the National Joint Council, a body made up of the FBU and fire service employers, and was carried out by independent researchers who were asked to investigate the impact of firefighters undertaking emergency medical response on communities across the UK.

An all members circular released today gives a full briefing on the findings of the report.

Concluding the circular Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, writes: “Overall, the report concludes that emergency medical response is an area of work firefighters could contribute to. The case is particularly strong for Red 1 calls, where time is critical and firefighters could intervene professionally to save lives. They also acknowledge the benefits of other areas of wider work, but this has proven difficult to quantify so far. At present, fire and ambulance services do not record incidents in the same way, making definitive conclusions difficult to draw.

“Members should be aware that the report supports the FBU’s stance that national professional standards are required for training and equipment for this work – something we have argued for strongly in all areas of firefighters’ work. The report also supports the need for best practice guidance to ensure firefighters’ standard operating procedures and safety concerns are dealt with professionally.

“This report is very long, but I would encourage members to read it and discuss it on stations and in Brigade Committees. The union has to decide on the next steps to take over emergency medical response and we therefore need every member to make their views known.”

A recall of the union’s conference was announced earlier this month to discuss the trials. It will take place in Blackpool on 21 March.

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Two senior managers in North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service get a £35k pay rise as 48 frontline firefighter posts face the axe.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has slammed a deal to give two senior managers at North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service a £35k pay rise as 48 frontline firefighter posts face the axe.

The union called the decision by North Yorkshire chief fire officer (CFO) Nigel Hutchinson, and members of the county’s fire authority to increase the two officers’ pay to over £112k each, obscene and immoral.

Steve Howley, secretary of the FBU in North Yorkshire, said: “The fire authority’s decision to rubber stamp the CFO’s proposal for these astronomical pay increases to two senior officers in their final year of service is just outrageous and proves there is no real scrutiny of the chief and his decisions.

“The authority plans to raise council tax by the maximum 1.99% for the second year as well as reducing 48 full-time firefighter posts by replacing a standard fire engine with a tactical response vehicle – a miniature fire engine that carries only three firefighters with plans to further reduce to two – seriously limiting our rescue capabilities. Yet they approved a £79k growth in senior management pay – this is immoral and out of touch. Clearly austerity has come to an end for those at the top.

“We are a service in crisis. We do not have enough staff in our control room to answer 999 calls resulting in them being re-directed to Cornwall, a result of cuts to staff numbers placing our remaining control operators in unacceptable and stressful positions. Couple this with as many as 18 fire engines being unavailable on a regular basis proves that senior officers are failing to provide an adequate service to the taxpayer. Yet they receive eye-watering pay increases when they constantly tell us there is no extra cash for firefighters.”

Just this week (13 March) the union reported how no fire engines were immediately available to respond to emergencies from York to Scarborough. There was also no high rise rescue capability in Scarborough and only one out of the two appliances available. In the Malton area, where no fire engines were available, response times to emergencies hit 30 minutes as engines had to come from further afield.

It is believed that the additional pension cost burden to the taxpayer for the two pay increases in the final 12 months of the managers’ careers will be around £2.4m over the estimated pension lifespan.

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TRANSITION TO THE 2015 FIREFIGHTERS’ PENSION SCHEME: DISCRIMINATION CLAIMS: APPEAL

We have previously reported (circular 2017HOC0108MW) the disappointing outcome of the Employment Tribunal relating to pensions, in which we were unsuccessful.  We have today attended a case conference with our legal advisors to discuss this outcome and the way forward.

You will also be aware that a case very similar to our own had been registered on behalf of judges. As we have previously reported, the judges were successful in their case at the Employment Tribunal. The legal arguments in both cases were very similar. Indeed, our legal advisors felt that in various areas, the firefighters’ case was stronger. So the situation is that two employment tribunals, considering two cases with similar, and often overlapping sets of argument, have reached opposite conclusions. There is an obvious legal contradiction.

Prior to the judgements, the government had made clear in both cases (the FBU case and the judges’ case) that if it lost the case, it would appeal the decision. An appeal is therefore expected against the decision in the judges’ case and would also have been expected had we been successful. Therefore it was always most likely that the legal arguments made in relation to both cases would end up at an appeal. The next appeal stage is to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

Our legal advisors remain confident that we have strong legal arguments and a strong basis for an appeal. I can therefore confirm that we have instructed our lawyers to start the process of appealing the judgement of the Employment Tribunal. The Executive Council had previously agreed this position subject to the meeting with the legal team. The union will not give up the fight for pension’s justice.

Further information will follow when available.Yours fraternally

MATT WRACK
General Secretary

Posted in Pension