15th August 2011
TO: ALL MEMBERS
Members and officials will be aware that due to the continuing unacceptable delay in them implementing the legislation which will allow eligible RDS firefighters access to the ‘Modified’ Firefighters’ Pension Scheme the FBU has been applying pressure on the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
The FBU has made it quite clear on numerous occasions that this delay is entirely the responsibility of DCLG and their legal team, and it represents a further attack on firefighter Pension Schemes in general.
To this end the FBU instructed its legal team to write formally to Treasury Solicitors highlighting the unacceptable position and explaining that further legal action will be taken in the event of any continued delay. In addition to this, a letter was also sent to the English Fire Minister Bob Neill, which also highlighted the union’s frustration and concern at the unacceptable delay, which the FBU reiterated was entirely the fault of DCLG.
On 22nd July 2011 the FBU received a response from Bob Neill, which accepted that it was important to implement the order as soon as possible and that he would do all he could to ensure the FBU is presented with a draft order as soon as possible.
Subsequently, at a meeting which took place with the FBU General Secretary and Assistant General Secretary on 27th July 2011, Bob Neill gave an assurance that this draft order would be made available to the union in the last week of August or at the latest in the first two weeks of September.
The FBU recognises that members wishing to join this ‘Modified’ scheme have been very patient and that this patience is wearing very thin. However it must be reiterated that the delays are entirely the fault of DCLG and its legal team and that the union will be continually pressing all parties to achieve the position that was won after an extensive legal challenge.
Members and officials will be given updates on this issue via Head Office circulars and the FBU website www.fbu.org.uk
Yours in Unity,
Cameron visits Manchester and Salford Fire Crews as Service Braces Itself to Lose One In Six Frontline Posts
Prime Minister David Cameron visited Salford and Manchester fire crews today in the aftermath of major civil unrest which saw the crews face a barrage of brick and bottles as they fought fires. The Fire Brigades Union described his visit to a brigade bracing itself for huge frontline cuts as a ‘shameless’ PR stunt.
The Manchester fire service is proposing to axe 250 frontline posts – one in six – because of Government funding cuts. The frontline cuts will see up to 15 fire engines being axed at night.
Andy Dark, FBU assistant general secretary said: “This is a shameless PR stunt. Manchester fire service is being cut to shreds as a result of decisions made by David Cameron’s Government.
“We’re facing a toxic diet of massive frontline cuts, a pay freeze and attacks on pensions. The coalition is destroying morale in the fire service.
“Fire crews are fed up being patted on the back by politicians one minute and stabbed in the back the next. The relentless attacks on the fire service and firefighters show this Government doesn’t care about the fire service.”
12th August 2011
We will all have been horrified by the recent civil disturbances. The Executive Council and all officials at every level of the Union will want to join the General Secretary in congratulating all members whether crews on appliances, officers or control staff, for their hard work and professionalism carried out under very difficult circumstances.
Head Office has been following the events as closely as we can, and has made the appropriate comments in press releases which can be viewed on the FBU Website. There has been some very useful media coverage as a result.
We have avoided speculation on the direct or underlying causes of the disturbances, and have concentrated on the following themes:
- mentality of the Fire & Rescue Service
- the frustration that firefighters’ experience when not being able to tackle incidents early in such circumstances
- the importance of monitoring crew safety
- the importance of the Fire Service, the stupidity and shortsightedness of cuts in the Service
- calling for government and others to take a stand in opposing cuts in the Service
We have received messages of support from a number of key fire and rescue service leaders which have been welcome. It is disappointing to note however, that the FBU is the only fire and rescue service organisation which is taking a positive stance on these key issues.
We have also had support from the FBU’s parliamentary group at Westminster, most notably John McDonnell, and also from Chris Williamson the lead on fire service matters on the Labour front bench. We have ensured that our concerns have been raised on the floor of the House of Commons.
Whilst our roles at incidents are very different, we do share a number of common problems with police officers and their various representative bodies, principally the Police Federation. Cuts in front line service, alongside increasing demands on the time and resources of the personnel have pushed the two services to breaking point. This point had been reached before the occurrence of the widespread civil uproar over the last week.
Similarly, the FBU, police trade unions and the members in both services endure all of this whilst employers attack our pay and conditions, and government attacks our pensions despite the demands of the occupations and the high contribution rates that are paid by members of the pension scheme that operate in the two sectors.
We welcome the recognition and praise afforded to our members by politicians but, as so often, these words are not met by any substantive action to support and assist members. Whilst we look ourselves, as does the public, and see men and women in the uniform of dedicated emergency service professionals, government ministers and employers seem to view members through some prism, and see men and women in the garb of butlers and housemaids to be patted on the head once in a while, and treated appallingly all the time.
The FBU’s response to the riots and the demands on the Service has been measured and factual. We have avoided an opportunistic and sensationalist approach.
We have received a number of reports from officials and members. We would like to have as comprehensive a picture as possible of what took place over this period (and may yet take place again)
It would be useful, therefore, if members could supply us with any information or events that you feel may assist the Union in relaying the experience of the Service to politicians, police and press.
It may be something simple e.g.
- whether meals were provided when crews were away from the station for protracted periods
- the length of time crews were away from station.
Or more data or call-related e.g.
- the number of calls received by the FRS
- rescues carried out
- attacks by rioters on firefighters’ and appliances/FRS property
- injuries suffered by members
- the details of crews deployed to incidents
- the effect on attendance times to incidents not related to the civil disorder
Please do send in anything you may be of interest. We may not be able to deal with the information or acknowledge receipt or give any feedback. We would like to emphasise that it’s information that we require rather than opinions on the riots, the causes and so on.
Confidentiality will be observed of course. Anonymously provided information can be less helpful as there is no simple method to verify the information. The more detailed the information, the better:
Dates, times, names, locations, statistics, concise summaries of events and actions – all these are key elements. Remember to include the details of your station/workplace and Brigade.
Information submitted by email should be sent to Riotinformation@fbu.org.uk
If you would prefer to send information by post, please address to CD information, FBU, Bradley House, Coombe Road, KT2 7AE.
Again, in closing, well done to all members for their actions over the last week. The job now for officials and for members is to bring the lessons of this week to politicians and the media.
I hope you will assist me by contacting politicians at both ward and national level, urging them to stop attacking firefighters’ and control staff through our pensions; to stop cutting and start re-investing in the Fire Service, and to reward your dedication with a pay deal to ensure stability and fairness within the Service.
Assistant General Secretary
The Fire Brigades Union says fire crews are ‘sickened’ by the silence of politicians over fire service cuts. Politicians have been queuing up to question police cuts, but none have yet challenged the same cuts to the fire service.
The union has been inundated by fire crews complaining about the lack of opposition to major fire service cuts in wake of widespread civil disturbances. The strongest and most recent comments have come from fire crews working in areas of recent unrest.
Fire crews have made similar comments over recent years in the aftermath of floods, extensive wildfires and in dealing with extreme winter weather. Like civil disturbances involving widespread arson, these incidents can tie up crews for protracted periods, sometimes months.
The last wave of cuts saw the loss of 1,000 frontline posts by April 2011. But ever increasing Government cuts will see that rise to at least 6,000 by 2014.
The cuts are being concentrated on full-time fire crews in largely urban areas, some of which have taken the brunt of recent unrest. The biggest cuts have happened and more threatened in Manchester, Merseyside, West Midlands, Yorkshire and the South West.
Recent civil unrest has shown how easily and quickly fire services can be stretched and struggle to cope. These disturbances, like others in the past, have seen widespread and major arson.
The FBU warns the fire service will also reach breaking point dealing with major incidents such as Floods, wildfires and extreme winter weather. These incidents are more frequent and can last for weeks and even months.
Andy Dark, FBU Assistant General secretary said: “Fire crews and angry and sickened by the silence on widespread frontline fire service cuts. We are already stretched and struggling and that will only get worse.
“It’s not only civil unrest that highlights the problems. We’ve faced mass wildfires, terrible floods and freezing winter weather which stretched fire crews for weeks and even months.
“Claims that fire services can fall back on each other and pool resources don’t stand up when the cuts are widespread. The overall pool of frontline resources is being drained away and it will get worse year after year.
“Pre-election promises not to cut frontline services have proved worthless. You don’t get much more frontline than a 999 response and we’re being cut to pieces.
“The police are facing the same issues, but at least this is now being challenged and there is public debate. Why is their silence on frontline fire service cuts and how does the Government expect us to cope with far fewer frontline crews in the years ahead?
“We’re over-stretched and struggling now when we have to deal with a whole range of major incidents. We’ll be at breaking point when the cuts really bite over the next two years.”
Central Government grants to fire and rescue service budgets are being slashed by 25% in the next four years. The budget cuts are staged to get worse year on year – so called ‘back-loading’.
The job cuts – mostly losses through not replacing those who leave – cover wholetime, retained and firefighters in control. The heaviest losses are to wholetime firefighters.
FBU media office 0208 541 1765 or mobile 07736 818100.
The Fire Brigades Union is warning that attacks on fire crews will result in deaths if they continue. Any delay in carrying out rescues hugely increases the risk to anyone trapped in a fire.
FBU Assistant General Secretary Andy Dark said: “Fire crews have been subjected to attacks and threatened as they try to protect the communities they live and work in. It is predominantly poorer working class communities that are bearing the brunt of arson attacks.
“Fire crews are doing their best in the face of great risk to themselves. They’ve been attacked on the way to incidents, at the scene and there have been attempts to steal life saving equipment.
“Those who are torching homes, shops and workplaces need to understand they are seriously risking lives. There is a very real risk that this will result in a significant loss of life if it goes on.
“Fire crews are frustrated and angry that they cannot get to burning buildings, especially where people may be trapped. Fire crews have to be able to get through without fear of attack or serious injury or people will die.
“We’ve seen businesses lost, many of them small retailers in what is left of our High Streets. Livelihoods are being lost and it’s jobs going up in smoke, not just buildings.
“We’re making a direct appeal to those involved to let the fire crews through and let them get on with the job. Fire won’t wait, and any delay risks lives being lost or the total loss of homes, shops and workplaces.
“All we have is kit to protect from the danger of fires, not from bricks, bottles or metal bars. We do not arrest people and we only use water on fires, we do not use it on those involved in these disturbances.
“In recent days the fire service has been overwhelmed in London. There is a clear risk this will also be the case in other cities if these disturbances spread further.”
Media contact: 0208 541 1765 or 07736 818100
Essex Fire Brigades Union are putting forward a compromise deal it hopes will end its long running dispute with Essex Fire Authority. The deal would see the union agree to more flexible crewing arrangements at fire stations to ensure the focus remains on protecting the frontline.
It will reluctantly accept some reductions in overall staffing numbers across the whole service. Fire crews have been taking industrial action short of a strike for two years in protest at cuts and imposed changes.
The deal would see a reprieve for the cuts at Brentwood and Canvey fire stations until at least 31st March 2013. This allows time for the Fire Authority, Fire Brigades Union and the local councils time to look at viable alternatives when round 2 of the central government funding settlement is known.
The detailed terms of the deal are based on those negotiated and agreed by both sides in July 2010. The Chief Fire Officer decided he could not sign that deal when anticipating Government funding cuts of £7.5 million.
The Union says the terms of the new deal are affordable until at least 31st March 2013 because the Government grant settlement was more generous than the Essex Chief Fire Officer anticipated. Instead of a £10 million cut in funding which was suggested by senior officers, the outcome was in fact only a £50,000 cut for 2011/2012 and a £750,000 increase in budget for 2012/2013.
The FBU also points to the £4.8 million the Fire Authority have taken from this year’s budget to put into hugely increased reserves earmarked to cover the rising costs of increasingly over budget projects including IT and the expansion of the Service Headquarters development at Kelvedon Park.
Mick Rogers, Essex FBU Brigade Secretary:
“This is a compromise deal for us but if agreed it will provide some protection to the frontline of the Service which is what the public of Essex, Firefighters, Officers and Control Operators expect when you consider the Fire Authority have received additional funding. We can confirm that we have the mandate from our members to sign the deal today if it is agreed.
“Our aim is to minimise cuts to the frontline services which is what all political parties say they want. We remain realistic about the potential funding issues from 1st April 2013 when we’ll see what the next round of Government funding grants will be.
“Signing this deal now would give all parties a 12-month window in which to work together. We can look at all options available to maintain our vital frontline services in the challenging times ahead.
“We hope that the opportunity this compromise deal offers is seized by all parties involved.
Mick Rogers (Brigade Secretary) – 07967 023709
Nick Mayes (Assistant Brigade Secretary) – 07917 065870
2nd August 2011
TO: ALL MEMBERS
I wish to advise you, in accordance with the Rules of the Union, that the Executive Council has decided to conduct an election for the position of LGBT National Chair.
The current holder of the post, Sister Yannick Dubois, is eligible for re-election.
Nomination forms will be dispatched by Head Office to All Brigade Committees in the near future.
Stop Putting Firefighters at Risk, Union Tells London Fire Brigade After Damning Health and Safety Executive Report
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has called on London Fire Brigade bosses to give greater commitment to the safety of its firefighters, after a damning report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified several failings.
The report by the HSE was a follow-up exercise, focusing specifically on areas of concern which arose following the deaths of two London firefighters – Bill Faust and Adam Meere – at a fire in Bethnal Green in 2004. While improvements had been identified in some areas, in others the lessons have not been learned
The report, made public by the Fire Brigades Union, highlights thirteen areas for improvement, including the need for better training in the use of breathing apparatus. The HSE has told London Fire Brigade to come up with an action plan to address the shortcomings.
Key points from the report include:
- A widespread view by firefighters that training in core firefighting skills had taken a back seat to “community work”;
- Concerns over the quality and frequency of training in the “risk critical” area of use of breathing apparatus while tackling fires;
- Demands by firefighters for better training often going unheeded by bosses;
- Officers expected to deliver training often complain that they have received insufficient training themselves;
- A lack of facilities for “real fire training”, which would simulate real-life firefighting scenarios.
The FBU’s regional health and safety co-ordinator, Gordon Fielden, said, “This very disturbing report puts the London Fire Brigade on notice that it must do much more to protect its firefighters from danger while they are at work.
“We are especially alarmed over the many concerns raised by the HSE over the inadequacy of breathing apparatus training. This is the most critical part of a firefighter’s job, and one that can make the difference between lives being lost or saved.
The London Fire Brigade expects its firefighters to put their lives on the line to rescue others. The very least it can do is to make sure it gives them the very best training to do their jobs. But it is failing, and the result of that failure could well be lives lost.
“We have been arguing for a long time that training in core firefighting skills is being sacrificed to allow for more extensive work in the community. Community work has its place, but is wrong and dangerous for the brigade not to make basic training the priority.
“Previously the brigade has audited itself in some of these areas, and not surprisingly those audits produced glowing conclusions and an outpouring of self-congratulation. But it has taken an independent body to show that those audits were a charade.
Now the brigade has been handed an action plan for its failings. The chairman of the fire authority, Councillor Brian Coleman, has been very quick in the past to bathe in the glow of perceived success. Now he needs to take responsibility for these serious failings.
“It is also a shot across the bow of those who have been agitating for swingeing cuts in the fire service. Cuts cost lives, and there can be no compromise when it comes to protecting the lives of Londoners and firefighters themselves.
“We will be watching the brigade like a hawk. Notices to improve in thirteen areas is a very serious matter, and they had better get started. Our members do a magnificent job, and we will not allow their safety to be jeopardised by poor training or cost-cutting.”
Gordon Fielden 07854 998 515