LGBT National Sectional Secretary

Congratulations to Brother Patrick Carberry who has been re-elected as LGBT National Sectional Secretary.

Together we’ll continue to make the fire service a safe inclusive place for everyone to be themselves.

For confidential advice & support contact
LGBT Rep Maggie Meszaros 07944290969 or
Fairness at Work Officer Dave Gillian 07837827657

Posted in Diversity


Today, as part of the Fire Brigades Union’s (FBU) centenary celebrations, all surviving issues of Firefighter magazine dating back to 1932 are being made available to browse online in what is believed to be a first for a UK trade union.

The union’s journal gives a priceless insight into the development of the fire service and its trade union through the 20th century. Major events including the Second World War, the Blitz and the first ever national firefighters strike are covered in detail as are fatal incidents such as the Cheapside fire in Glasgow. The blaze, which happened 58 years ago this month, resulted in the deaths of 19 firefighters and salvage corps members.

The archives run up to 2001 by which time the FBU had begun posting the magazine online. The last issue in the archive – the September/October 2001 edition – includes the FBU’s commentary on the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in New York, in which 343 of the 414 emergency workers who died were firefighters.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: “The FBU has a rich and engrossing history. We hope readers will find it an illuminating journey about how their fire and rescue service has developed over the past 100 years and the essential role the FBU has played in that.

“It is quite frankly amazing that a small industrial union like ours has been able to regularly publish a high quality journal for the best part of a century. Firefighter is one of the oldest, continually running fire service publications in the world and gives an essential insight to a profession that has responded to some of the most devastating events in UK history.”

It took the Modern Records Centre at Warwick University over a year to digitise the large collection which is being released to the public as part of celebrations to mark 100 years since the union, then known as the Firemen’s Trade Union, was founded on 1 October 1918.

Rebecca Jones, of the Modern Records Centre at Warwick University, said: “This was a great project to work on; my father is a retired firefighter from Leicestershire so it was of great personal interest to myself. By digitalising all the past issues of Firefighter, readers will be able to easily search for topics that interest them. I found it poignant that the collection ends with 9/11, and the articles on the effect of television on the 1955 general election were fascinating.”

The online archive can be accessed at:

Posted in Uncategorized

Brigade Chair Election

This just in from the Brigade Secretary


As you may be aware we have started a ballot for the FBU Brigade Chairs election.

As with the last 2 elections we have had lots of interest in taking the role on.

4 years ago the ballot was between John Iveson and Paul Drinkwater (John reluctantly couldn’t go to a full election at that time).

2 years ago the ballot was between Paul Drinkwater and Louise Connell (which resulted in 80% voting and was won by less than 50 votes).

This year WYFBU are incredibly lucky to have another 2 outstanding candidates seeking to take it on, they are Martyn Bairstow and Mick Loney.

I’m asking that you fully engage once again in this democratic process, ballot papers should be landing on station now and although the ballot closes on the 6th April, I imagine they will start to be collected from the 2nd April, so please vote early.

For our members at FSHQ, I have your ballot paper in my office ready for collection. If there any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Yours in unity,


David Williams
WYFBU Brigade Secretary

For those members who don’t recognise the names of either candidate, here’s a few photos, Martyn first, then Mick.

Posted in Elections

We Are the Lions Mr Manager!

For those culture vultures out there…join us for a performance of We Are the Lions Mr Manager, “the remarkable story of Jayaben Desai the inspirational leader of the 1976-78 Grunwick Film Processing Factory Strike“.

Your Brigade Secretary Dave Williams will be this Friday 7:30pm (Huddersfield Irish Centre, 86 Fitzwilliam Street. HD1 5BB). Tickets £6 on the door.

Bradford Division Secretary Boris will be heading down to Wortley Hall Wednesday 21st 7:30pm.

Why not join us and support the trade union movement…

Posted in Trade Unions

North Yorkshire Fire Cuts on BBC Inside Out

We’ve just had heads up about an interesting programme on TV last night, featuring our Brother Steve Howley (Brigade Secretary for North Yorkshire)
Steve (who is standing for Yorkshire and Humberside EC member) features heavily on the program talking about cuts to firefighters and control staff and talks about the failings of the control system in North Yorkshire.

Catch up here on iPlayer

Posted in Fire Cuts

FBU member meets MP to discuss help for troubled youngsters

This just in from the Brigade Secretary

Our member, Watch Manager Craig Bedford and myself met with the Shadow Minister for Justice, Richard Burgon MP today to discuss the fantastic work Craig is doing in Wetherby Young Offenders institute.
In what can only be described as a very constructive meeting Craig highlighted several campaigns he’s working on with these troubled youngsters and we both left the meeting feeling very satisfied.
From a personal perspective I want to thank Craig for agreeing to speak to Richard and Richard himself who gave up so much of his time to listen to us.

Yours in unity

David Williams
WYFBU Brigade Secretary

Posted in Politics

Transportation of casualties in fire service vehicles

1st February 2018

Dear Brother / Sister

Members will be aware of the pressures that the NHS and YAS are currently under. When demand levels are at their highest WYFRS are notified and have issued guidance on the transportation of casualties (OPID 15.16 issued 5th May 2016).

Following a recent incident in WY where a crew transported a casualty on a long board in the back of a fire appliance WYFBU raised concerns with management about the legality of such a practice and also the wider issue of transporting any casualty in a fire appliance.

Due to the fact we are aware of the levels of demand placed on ambulance crews, and by the simple fact we have encountered instances where members of the public have been transported to A&E departments this is what is known as a foreseeable event. Under the H&S at Work act and the Management of H&S at work regulations an employer is legally bound to risk assess any such activity. Despite the fact the OPID was issued in 2016 no risk assessment has been carried out to date and therefore have failed to reasonably assess the risk to our members and the public.

Furthermore, questions have been asked about insurance and liability. Again clarification on this issue is only just being sought by WYFRS despite repeated issuing of OPID 15.16 when notification is received from YAS of high demand levels. To date there has been no confirmation from the underwriters themselves that this type of event is covered under our existing insurance policy. We have however received correspondences from Kirklees which states that WYFRS ‘should’ be insured subject to relevant risk assessments being carried out. As previously stated this work has not currently been done and WYFBU will work to ensure that a full and comprehensive risk assessment is completed as soon as practical.

This does leave us in a position whereby, on the current advice received, ‘WYFRS IS NOT INSURED TO TRANSPORT ANY CASUALTY ON A FRONT LINE APPLIANCE’. Following the brigade committee today WYFBU have reached a unanimous agreement to inform our members that this is the current situation.

The FBU must, in the course of its duties, ensure that when our members are resolving incidents on behalf of WYFRS they are fully covered and not operating outside of any laws or legislation. At the time of issuing this advice to members we cannot guarantee that, should a decision be made to transport a casualty to A&E, that this is the case and therefore have no option but to advise against this practice until such time that confirmation is gained that full protection is in place. Once this has been clarified we will issue a further statement.

If you have any questions on this matter please contact your local FBU rep.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

Pensions: Age Discrimination Appeal

30 January 2018

TO: All Members

Dear Brother/Sister

You will be aware that in a case brought by the Fire Brigades Union, the Employment Tribunal decided last year that the transitional arrangements made in 2015 when the new firefighters’ pension scheme was introduced did not discriminate against younger firefighters on the grounds of age. I am pleased to be able to let you know that the Employment Tribunal’s decision has now been overturned by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT).

The case will now be returned or ‘remitted’ to the Employment Tribunal, which will have to weigh up properly the Government’s alleged need to implement the 2015 transitional arrangements against the damage that they did to firefighters who missed out on protection just because of their age. The EAT agreed with our argument that the Employment Tribunal had to conduct this balancing exercise and failed to do so.

In a parallel decision also handed down today, the EAT dealt with the similar transitional arrangements made with the new pension scheme for judges created in 2015. In the judges’ case, the Employment Tribunal did analyse the damage that the new arrangements did to younger judges and found that the balance did not justify the imposition of transitional arrangements. The EAT has upheld that decision. Because the judges’ Employment Tribunal had conducted the balancing exercise (and found against the Government), there is no need to remit their case to the Employment Tribunal.

The EAT also agreed with our argument that the transitional arrangements potentially discriminate on the grounds of sex and race because female and B&EMM members are disproportionately likely to be younger. That issue has also been remitted to the Employment Tribunal for further consideration.

The EAT did not agree with all of our case. We said (and so did the judges) that making transitional arrangements that favour members just because they are nearer to retirement can never be a legitimate aim and can never be justified – being ‘nearer to retirement’ is just another way of saying ‘older’. The judges won this point in the Employment Tribunal, but that part of their decision has now been overturned by the EAT. So far as the judges are concerned that does not matter. They won overall because of the balancing issue mentioned above.

What this means is that, as matters stand, we would end up in the Employment Tribunal on the basis that the Government is entitled to protect the position of older firefighters but not their younger co-workers, and our criticism of the Government’s position would have to be limited to challenging the unfairness of the impact on unprotected firefighters. We have presented a legal case based on the argument that the Government is not entitled to protect some firefighters and not others if the distinction is age, no matter how the line is drawn.

The Government says it intends to appeal our case and the judges’. We will use this opportunity to appeal on the legitimate aim issue mentioned above because if we are successful on that, there is no need to balance the Government’s aims against the damage they caused to younger members at all.

This is sure to be a long hard fight. We remain confident in our arguments and although we cannot give any guarantees, the decisions of the EAT enable us to continue with our challenge.

We will be discussing all these issues in the coming days and members will be kept updated.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

Posted in Pension Tagged with: , ,


CIRCULAR:            2017HOC0654DG

 18 December 2017 

Dear Brother/Sister,



Day four (Thursday 14 December 2017) began with the Government’s defence of the Employment Tribunal’s decision which, their QC said, was more complete and coherent than the Tribunal’s decision in the judges’ case. He characterised our assault on it as an allegation that the decision did not set out sufficient reasoning to justify the conclusions that the Tribunal had reached.


In much the same way that we did, he went through the judgment paragraph by paragraph. He argued that the Employment Judge correctly summarised the case that both sides had put to her, meaning that she understood the arguments, that she set out the key facts on which the arguments were based, and having done so she could not be criticised for saying that she preferred one side of the argument to the other.


In dealing with the facts as found by the Employment Judge, their QC noted that the Government didn’t decide to offer transitional protections “as a sop to the trade unions” – but because it decided that those who were closest to retirement needed the greatest protection. He said that being closer to retirement is not just the same as being older, because workers who are closer to retirement have a more lively interest in when they can retire and what their pension will be. That, he said, is not an issue which is solely about the financial consequences of offering protection to some but not to others – it is about fairness as a matter of social policy or political judgement, which are for the elected Government to make.


There was some discussion about what the role of the trade unions had been. The Government accepted that the FBU’s position had always been that it wanted full protection for everyone, but when that wasn’t accepted by the Government, it promoted the Scottish Government’s position as a fall-back, arguing that protection should be calculated from the age at which each firefighter expected to be able to retire, between ages 50 and 55, and not from age 55 for everyone. The Government’s QC said that this fall-back position was also discriminatory but, pressed by the Judge, he accepted that what the FBU or the TUC as a whole might have been prepared to accept was irrelevant. The FBU has challenged the Scottish Government’s ‘solution’, and anyway an employer is not permitted to discriminate simply because a trade union has asked it to do so.


Our QC came back by saying that the case isn’t about whether or not the Employment Judge understood the factual or legal issues, it’s about whether she subjected the Government’s decisions about transitional protection to any proper scrutiny. She didn’t analyse the facts that the Government put forward as the basis for its decision, and it is not enough to say that the Government may well have good social or political reasons for doing what it did. The Government has to provide concrete and rational reasons for doing what it did, which the Tribunal must then weigh up for itself. What the Employment Judge actually did was surrender her role altogether – the law says there must be a balancing exercise, based on the concrete evidence, and that balance must be struck by the Tribunal. The Employment Judge allowed the Government to strike the balance without examining the issues herself.


The parties then dealt with the arguments about sex and race discrimination, and equal pay. The reason why they arise at all is that as time has gone by, the sex and racial balance of the fire and rescue service has become less predominantly white and male; so if you discriminate against younger members you also discriminate indirectly against female and BME members. Looked at in terms of equal pay, there is a hidden consequence: if the age discriminatory barrier is removed so that younger female firefighters are given full protection, then the same protection must be given to younger male firefighters – otherwise they are discriminated against on the grounds of their sex.


The legal tests for indirect discrimination (on the grounds of sex and/or race) and equal pay are slightly different from the test for direct age discrimination. The Fire and Rescue Authorities’ QC, who argued the case on this point for the other side, said that we were trying to turn an age discrimination case into a sex or race claim but, he said, producing statistics showing that younger firefighters are more likely to be female or of BME origin doesn’t mean you can turn one claim into the other – you have to show that sex or race is the reason for the less favourable treatment.


Our QC pointed out that as a matter of law, recently decided by the Supreme Court, that’s not right. You have to show that the same sort of provision, criterion or practice causes one category of member to be disadvantaged, but if the advantaged and disadvantaged categories have a statistically significant gender or race imbalance, you do not have to show why. The employer has to justify the provision, criterion or practice.

The day finished with an agreement, first raised at the end of day three, that the Fire and Rescue Authorities’ appeal on a technical issue will be dealt with at a subsequent hearing. They say that they should not be in the firing line because they were only doing what the regulations told them to do. They lost this argument in the Employment Tribunal, but if we win our appeal they will be able to raise it again. Importantly, the Government could not raise this defence.



What Happens Next?

The Judge said he would let us have his decision in the second half of January.


Bearing in mind that we are dealing with two appeals – ours and the judges’ – and bearing in mind that the findings of fact in the judges’ case are fairly clear but they are almost entirely absent in ours, there are a number of possible permutations. We could both win, with the EAT concluding that the Government did not have a legitimate aim at all, in which case the Government would have to decide whether or not to appeal to the Court of Appeal. The EAT might conclude that the Government did have a legitimate aim, but there was no proper balance struck in the judges’ case (in which case the judges win altogether), but in our case the balancing exercise was not conducted at all, in which case we end up back  in the Employment Tribunal so that it can be. We might end up being separated from the judges again.


It is also possible that the EAT will refer our case to the Court of Justice of the European Union for clarification of one issue of European law: if a discriminatory provision is introduced for political reasons, what evidence must the Government offer to justify it, and how should the court balance the political need against the damage that it does to employees who are discriminated against?


Some Reflections On The Arguments

Despite the thousands of pages of evidence presented to the EAT, both cases are going to come down to a few key legal principles.


Everyone knows that the transitional protections discriminate on the grounds of age. The Government has admitted that. Everyone knows that the discrimination is direct discrimination – you win or lose just because of your age, not because you fail to meet some other criterion which, as it happens, turns out to be linked to age.


Direct age discrimination is unusual because unlike direct discrimination on the grounds of sex, race or other protected characteristics which can never be justified, direct age discrimination can be. It is permitted in European law and also in UK law, but the tests are different:


  • In European law, EU member States may provide that differences of treatment on grounds of age do not constitute unlawful discrimination if “they are objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate aim, including legitimate employment policy, labour market and vocational training objectives, and if the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary”. So some margin of discretion is allowed for discrimination on social policy grounds.
  • In UK law, direct discrimination is permitted if the Respondent can show that its treatment of the Claimant was a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. So there is no express margin of discretion for discrimination on the basis of some social policy objective. This provision applies in the private sector too, where social policy cannot have very much scope (if any).


The key question is whether the Government, when making pension provision for its own employees, has to meet the requirements of both (as we say), or whether it only has to meet the European law threshold (as the Government says). Does the Government have more right to directly discriminate on the grounds of age against its own employees than a private sector employer?


If meeting a social policy objective is enough, what sort of social policy meets the mark? Previous cases have given some examples of what is enough, usually in the context of imposing a compulsory retirement age – freeing up employment or promotion opportunities for younger workers, for example, or allowing employers to retire older employees without having to go through an undignified capability procedure.


But what sort of social policy are we dealing with exactly? The Government’s case on this issue has been a moving target. It started by saying that younger workers did not need protection because they had enough time to make good any damage to their pension. That quickly unravelled: the cost of making it good is extortionate, it simply transfers the burden of a smaller pension tomorrow into lower take-home today after additional pension saving is taken into account, and anyway the people who are in the least need of protection – those who already have the biggest accrued pensions – are the ones who get the biggest advantage.


So the Government changed tack. It said that the objective (the ‘legitimate aim’) was to protect workers who were closer to retirement in the sense that they had more concrete plans for their retirement. It becomes a question of what feels fair, not what the financial consequences are. It changed again, and said it was to protect those who were closer to retirement in the sense that they had most cause to believe that their pension arrangements would not be disturbed in their final years – don’t upset the expectations that they had been led to believe in.


And if meeting a social policy aim is enough, what does the Government have to do to prove it? It should be common ground that the tribunal’s role is to balance the legitimacy of the aim that the Government is trying to achieve against the disproportionality of the effects on different age groups. The Government cannot say it will discriminate one way or the other just because it feels ‘fair’ to do so. The European cases make it clear that mere generalisations will not do. A proper explanation, backed up by evidence, must be provided so that the tribunal can reach its own judgment in the balancing exercise.


And what role can, or should political considerations play? The Government made much of the fact that these decisions were taken at Cabinet level, affected millions of public sector employees, and went through Parliament. The more ‘political’ the decision, according to the Government’s case, the less inclined the courts should be to become involved by demanding concrete evidence of the objectives it was aiming to achieve and the means it was using. But if that’s right, where do you stop?


There is plenty here for the judge to think about.


In closing, can I thank Andrew Short, our QC, and Lydia Seymour, our junior barrister, as well as Ivan Walker who has helped us navigate our way through these complex issues and made these reports understandable to our officials and members.


Many thanks.


Yours fraternally,


National Officer





Posted in Pension

Pay 2017

16 November 2017

TO: All Members

Dear Brother/Sister


Pay 2017


Members will recall from circular 2017HOC0518MW that the fire service employers had proposed that NJC pay rates should be increased by 1%. This was in response to the rejection of their previous proposals following a consultation with FBU members.


Following further dialogue with the employers and requests for clarification by the Executive Council, it has been confirmed that this proposal is not conditional on any other matters. Nor would it be considered as necessarily a final settlement of pay in relation to the current pay round.


As a result, the Executive Council agreed to consult members on this proposal and to recommend that the union should agree that NJC pay rates should be increased as suggested. This consultation will conclude at the December business meeting of the Executive Council (5-7 December). All branches should consider this proposal within this timescale.


Best wishes.


Yours fraternally



Matt Wrack

General Secretary




Posted in Pay