You may well receive contingency contract letters in the next few days. The FBU would like to draw your attention to the following extract from the Corporate Management Team minutes 20/09/11 -
“Resilience Agreements – following discussion and consideration of Members comments from the Management Committee, it was decided to reduce the sum payable to £1000. £500 payable on signing the Agreement for 12 months and a further £500, – one off payment – payable on the first occasion that he individual works during a period of strike action and that all hours worked during a period of strike action would be paid at double time. DCFO to review, amend and update the CFO’s draft paper to the Fire Authority. DHR to update the letter to reflect what was agreed by CMT and to add a section to the letter setting out by when the response to the letter is required”
We would point out that, if they are sent, the letters are somewhat premature – the FBU has not balloted for industrial action and remains committed to finding a negotiated settlement over the pensions issue if at all possible. The amount beign offered by the Fire Authority sounds like a lot of money – however, members are reminded that we have endured a two pay freeze and face a likely pension increase that will see firefighters and Control staff pay an additional £70+ into their pension every month for the rest of their careers. Locally, we have seen the financial impact on our retained members caused by the Low Risks Incident Policy while many wholetime members anticipate the loss of the London Fringe Allowance.
You are not obliged to sign the contingency contract letter and the FBU would urge you not to do so. Unity is strength.
FBU Berkshire Brigade Chair
Fire services must have legal duty for floods and Government must halt plans for more savage cuts to fire service.
The Fire Brigades Union has called for fire authorities to be given a legal duty to deal with floods after another key report recommended action to clarify the issue. The report also highlighted concerns over how stretched resources were in dealing with an “artificial” four-day exercise which was not run 24 hours, round the clock, at any stage.
The union warned that the loss of thousands or more frontline fire crews planned over the next few years will make matters worse. Such cuts will inevitably put the lives of the public and fire crews at greater risk in dealing with flood response.
The cuts will inevitably mean pressure on fire authorities to retreat back to do only what they are legally required to deliver, which excludes flood response. This could lead to a crude postcode lottery, as each fire service will make its own decisions, undermining a coherent response across the country.
The union said the DEFRA report on Operation Watermark was bold and open in its ‘warts and all’ approach, highlighting where things went wrong and the lessons learned. Such an approach was always welcomed by the frontline professionals who respond to such emergencies.
The report on Exercise Watermark, published today (Monday 31 October), recommended that government departments work with stakeholders to clarify how local and national flood rescue assets should be coordinated. Key recommendation 26 – The review recommends that Defra should work with the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Cabinet Office and the Welsh Government to clarify how local and national flood rescue assets
should be coordinated, for example statutory duty, framework, Memorandum of Understanding, etc.”
This echoes recommendation 39 of the Pitt review into the 2007 floodings which stated: “The Government should urgently put in place a fully funded national capability for flood rescue, with Fire and Rescue Authorities playing a leading role, underpinned, as necessary, by a statutory duty.”
Feedback from participants in Operation Watermark said flood rescue organisations… need to use their resources better, decide whether there is enough resource and to consider how best to coordinate with others (3.91.p.24). The report noted that stakeholders favour statutory duty to tackle this.
While today’s report makes no specific recommendation about resources, it does flag up clear concerns. The frontline resources available during Operation Watermark are facing major cuts, with the likely loss of thousand more frontline crews in the next few years.
Today’s report highlights:
3.102. Many different groups including UK government departments, local authorities, the Environment Agency and utility companies, were able to prove enough resource for the four days of the core exercise. They said that they would have found it difficult to provide enough resource had the exercise run 24 hours a day or over a more prolonged period of time.
3.103. A wide range of emergency planners and responders said that it was good to have an opportunity to test internal resource plans but it showed that the amount of resource needed is not fully understood for the impact of a severe, wide-area emergency.
3.104. All responders need to be able to react to flooding events of the scale described in the Cabinet Office national planning assumption by using existing resources better and by getting help from elsewhere (for example, mutual aid,
3.105. The resource demands during Exercise Watermark need to be carefully assessed and balanced with the artificial nature of the exercise. The core exercise did not happen over a 24-hour period which would have needed more resource but some of the additional ‘bolt on’ exercises held at the same time used resources that could be available as mutual aid in a real incident.
Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary said: “Genuine professionals welcome the ‘warts and all’ approach taken by those who prepared this report. It is an antidote to the mutual back-slapping that so often follows the immediate aftermath of real major incidents.
“The only way of improving in the future is by clearly identifying what has gone wrong and recommending how to put it right. This report does not shy away from this and the professionals will take this on board.
“We expect government to move forward with proposals to place a legal duty on fire authorities to respond to floods, which it can do without primary legislation. The need for urgent action on this point was highlighted by Pitt in 2008 and it is now time to act.
“The major cuts to frontline fire crews, command and control centres and officers must be halted. There is a very real danger that lives will be lost if the cuts are not stopped.
“The huge cuts will add intense pressure on fire authorities to cut services back to what they are legally required to do, and that excludes flooding. As each authority makes its own decisions, there will inevitably be a postcode lottery in flood response, undermining attempts at ensuring a common approach across the country.”
Media office 0208 541 1765 or 07736 818100
Fire union challenges Strong over claims there was ‘long and hard debate’ over Cumbria fire control axe
The Fire Brigades Union has challenged Cumbria County Councillor Gavin Strong’s claims there was a “long and hard” debate before a decision was made to axe the county’s fire control centre. The union says full public consultation did not happen, there has been no debate by the full fire authority, staff were ‘gagged’ before the decision at Cabinet and the public and press excluded when key financial information was discussed at Cabinet.
In a press release last week Gary Strong, Cabinet Member for Community Safety & Local Services claimed:”It is particularly disappointing that the decision of the council’s Scrutiny Advisory Board was so clearly misrepresented in Parliament. We have made the offer to all Cumbrian MPs to come and talk to us about the plans but only one has got in touch to speak to us direct. We have now debated this issue long and hard and I am absolutely confident that it is the right decision for Cumbria. I hope that we can move forward with the project.”
The FBU says staff were only given a week’s notice before the axe plan was put to the Cabinet. Until that stage the proposal was for Cumbria and Cheshire fire service controls to share technology and provide back up for each other, not to close Cumbria’s control.
Prior to the issue going to Cabinet, control staff were instructed not to speak to the media about the plans under threat of disciplinary action. The part of the Cabinet Paper which was made public makes clear there was no consultation prior to the Cabinet decision being made.
No full public consultation has ever been launched.
Ade Kevern FBU Brigade secretary said: “Councillor Strong is giving a highly misleading impression. A decision of this magnitude needs full public consultation before a decision is taken and that has not happened.
“The very short time frame from the axe plan being made and it being adopted makes a nonsense of claims of their being any long and hard debate, let alone one in which the public are involved. The full fire authority – the county council – has never debated the matter. And staff were gagged from talking to the media about the plans in advance of the Cabinet decision.
“I find it ridiculous to attack our local MPs in this way. There are none we have spoken to that knew much about the closure plans, an interim move to Cheshire in June 2012 and then on to a regional control if that ever happens in 2014.
“The public will find it laughable that the county council wants to talk to MPs about the plan after the decision has been made. We applaud the fact MPs have raised this in Parliament and confirmed Government funding of £1.8 million is available to upgrade our existing control.
“Our MPs are speaking up for Cumbria and have confirmed a real financial commitment from Government. We want our county council to do the same and ditch these awful plans.”
Ade Kevern Brigade Secretary (Cumbria)
The Brigade Committee of Berkshire Fires Brigades Union (FBU) has debated the Fire Authority’s proposals for new arrangements for fire cover in Windsor. The Brigade Committee, made up from representatives from across the county, overwhelmingly dismissed the proposals and raised grave professional concerns about public and firefighter safety and the motivations for the decision. They further instructed Brigade Officials to challenge the Fire Authority and seek an urgent meeting with the Chair of the Fire Authority to discuss their concerns.
Royal Berkshire Fire Authority decided at its last meeting, 28th September 2011, to provide 24 hour fire cover in the town with an under-sized vehicle crewed with just three fire-fighters. The Fire Authority had been considering the proposals in secret just a week earlier but decided to move the decision to the public part of the meeting at the last minute. The plans will see the vehicle operate from a base provided by the local authority with a crew from Slough fire station. The under sized, under equipped and under crewed fire appliance will be expected to attend all incidents in Windsor despite its inadequacies raising serious health and safety implications for firefighters and the public .
The decision is now subject to a period of consultation and the FBU will be making a detailed submission outlining their concerns.
Mark Stollery, Berkshire FBU, Secretary said:
“The decision to provide 24 hour fire cover in Windsor is a good one but this is the wrong solution and is not in the interests of Windsor resident’s safety. This is a politically motivated and politically fudged deal that is disingenuous to the people of Windsor who deserve better. There are many other better solutions available to the Fire Authority and they should now fully explore them before going down this dangerous route.”
Maurice Whyte, Berkshire FBU Chair, said:
“The Fire Authority intends to replace Windsor’s fire engine with a much smaller vehicle and a reduced crew. This vehicle will not be appropriate to deal with serious incidents such as house fires. We’re being told that the proposed vehicle will be supported at these incidents by two additional fire appliances. However, this measure in itself will strip fire cover from elsewhere in the county and does not resolve the problem of what happens when this small fire vehicle arrives first at a serious incident. As it stands now, it will have to wait until supporting appliances arrive before the crew can get to work properly. The brigade will argue that it can perform rescues. However, this can not be achieved safely.”
Mark Stollery – 07917 065868
Maurice Whyte - 07917 065867
Question: Is it true that the FBU will not be taking any industrial action on 30 November?
Answer: Yes it is. The Executive Council made the decision at its meeting on 18 October 2011. The Executive Council agreed a statement which was circulated to branches and is being sent to all members at home.
Question: I am really angry with this decision. Why is the FBU not prepared to take industrial action to protect my pension?
Answer: The Executive Council has been very clear that we may need to take industrial action on pensions. We have made this clear to the government at every stage of discussion. We are currently in detailed talks with the government. We have always said we are prepared to talk about the issues raised by the government. FBU members have also made clear they expect us to talk. The current format of talks, (i.e. separate talks for each public service scheme) was agreed by the TUC. Since the move to scheme-specific talks, we have been pursuing our members’ interests by presenting a range of expert evidence to challenge the government’s agenda. It has been acknowledged that this evidence presents serious challenges to the government over its proposals for our pensions.
The Executive Council will not shrink from this. The canvassing of members’ views, the model resolution for branches, the UK-wide series of branch, brigade-level and mass meetings were initiated by the Executive Council precisely because it is committed to the members and your pensions.
Question: Didn’t the TUC decide in September that all unions would be taking strike action on 30 November?
Answer: Not quite. On 14 September the TUC’s public sector liaison group (PSLG) which comprises the unions in the public sector agreed that the 30 November would be a day of action on which each union would decide its level and type of involvement. The TUC’s press release spelled this out:
“given the failure of the government to engage properly in the negotiations, to step up the campaign and to hold a first day of action on Wednesday 30 November.
Each union has been asked to consider taking what they judge to be the most appropriate form of action possible to show their support for this united campaign.
This would range from strike action, where ballot mandates have been secured from members and unions judge that appropriate, through to lunchtime meetings, rallies and joint events with community groups and service users.”
Question: Why was the decision made not to take industrial action on 30 November?
Answer: We take industrial action when it is necessary to do so. In Spring 2011, some unions felt that their members’ pension schemes were going to be hit the hardest and earliest and balloted for strike action earlier than some, and took strike action on 30 June.
More recently, other unions have considered the timetable that has been set for their discussions and the manner in which the government has conducted those discussions and have concluded that they should begin their ballot now.
The discussions for the firefighters’ scheme has a very different timetable and we judge that the government’s approach in those discussions so far has been genuine and meaningful.
There are principally two separate themes in the talks:
i. Contribution rates
ii. Post-2015 firefighter scheme
Unlike other unions, the timetable for talks on both of those issues does not conclude until after 30 November.
It is primarily for those reasons that the Executive Council has decided not to ballot members for industrial action at this time.
Question: If we don’t strike or take other industrial action on 30 November does that mean we can never take industrial action with the other trade unions?
Answer: If we don’t take industrial action on 30 November it does not stop us taking industrial action in the future – either at the same time or at different times as other trade unions.
Question: Will we not just look weak to the government and the civil service if we don’t take some form of action?
Answer: Ministers, civil servants and the employers are under no illusion that if we don’t get proposals that we can recommend or at least tolerate as the best achievable, the union will take industrial action.
Question: Will we not just look weak to the other unions if we don’t take some form of action?
Answer: All unions are aware of the history of the FBU and the position of the FBU on public sector pensions. The union is represented on the General Council and the TUC Executive. It attends all meetings of the TUC’s Public Sector Liaison Group. All unions know that when the FBU moves to ballot, it wins massive majorities on very high turnouts. They also know that when the FBU takes strike action it does so with purpose, resolve and FBU members all take strike action together.
An explanation of the reasons behind the Executive Council decision was made to the TUC General Council shortly after the decision was made. The General Council fully understands that the purpose of the industrial action is to achieve an outcome acceptable to the trade unions’ members. The initial step towards being able to achieve this goal is meaningful dialogue and mutual respect at the negotiating table. The FBU is not experiencing the disrespect and dismissive attitudes which other unions are receiving. In addition, a major obstacle foreseen by the FBU in the fire service pension talks was the early promulgation of the “cost ceilings” for the scheme without proper prior discussion on the methodology and financial inputs into those calculations. The FBU has achieved that.
Question: Are we not just leaving it all too late?
Answer: The short answer is: No. A fuller explanation is this – the changes which the government announced to public sector pension schemes are three-fold.
i. Changing the up-rating (or indexation) of pensions from RPI to CPI
ii. Changing contribution rates
iii. The benefits structure of the scheme.
We are challenging the legality of the up-rating method through the courts. If that doesn’t succeed then we will be taking strike action to get a change in the policy.
Any changes to contribution rates will start to take effect from April 2012. We would not wait until then, but we do not have to take strike action at this time, this early. It is not known for certain what those rates will be. The key government consultation on this matter is that which is being conducted by CLG and which closes on 2 December 2011 with a government response to the consultees’ views being delivered, we believe, in the first week or so in the New Year.
The “cost-ceiling” for the firefighter scheme has not yet been calculated. The government wants the new scheme to be shaped by this cost-ceiling. We are using the time available to press our members’ case with the government.
Question: What if the government is just stringing us along?
Answer: The Executive Council is very alive to this possibility. So far, the pace of the discussions has been consistent with the availability of the data and the information. Should that change and the negotiators sense that talks have stalled or that the department has begun to play for time, that will be reported to the Executive Council with the appropriate recommendations on how we should respond.
Question: A lot of members I know are very angry and want to take strike action now and walk off the station. Why don’t we just do that?
Answer: At this stage the Executive Council does not believe that industrial action would assist the negotiations or improve the prospect for good outcomes. It is also our judgement that it may actually impede progress.
When and if that view changes, the Executive Council will not hesitate to act accordingly.
Question: Should we not be taking industrial action now to make the talks more effective for the FBU?
Answer: So far, we have been successful in ensuring that the consultation is scheduled over a period of time conducive for discussions to be comprehensive, well-informed and meaningful.
Other unions have unfortunately not been able to achieve this yet. We have done this without the need for industrial action. We believe in maintaining readiness and keeping the powder dry until it’s required.
Question: Could we not just take 999 call only action that day?
Answer: Whether we take action short of strike or strike action, it is our view that there will be a stoppage of pay for partial performance by some, possibly many, fire and rescue authorities. Moreover, industrial action, whether strike action or action short of strike, has as its purpose two objectives:
a. To enhance the unions’ negotiators’ prospects within talks
b. To move the other side when talks have broken down or have concluded without an outcome acceptable to the union and its members.
We are not at a position where industrial action is required, yet.
Question: Are the majority of members calling for action right now?
Answer: We have been systematically canvassing the views of FBU members through branch meetings over the past few months. It is clear from this that members are resolute for industrial action when necessary.
Reports from lead officials and Executive Council members who have attended an extensive number of these meetings is that members are not calling for immediate strike action, but instead want talks to be given the best chance.
We are clear that this patience is not infinite, and reiterate that fact at every meeting with the government.
Question: I heard someone say that they didn’t think the union was serious about strike action at all, let alone on 30 November. Is that true?
Answer: The facts speak for themselves. Alongside the normal business conducted by officials at every level of the union, the last few months has seen meetings with the membership preparing for a ballot all over the UK. Behind the scenes preparations have been taking place, and the union has been ready to ballot and initiate strike action for many weeks.
The Executive Council has been meeting every 2-3 weeks to be updated on developments in order to inform the discussion which takes place at each meeting on the issue of strike action. These additional meetings will continue throughout the current phase of talks.
Question: Is the Executive Council saying that we should do nothing on 30 November?
Answer: The Executive Council urges members to engage with the demonstrations being arranged up and down the country by trades councils, community groups and the regional TUC’s.
Specific activities will be notified to members over the coming weeks.
Question: Is attending demonstrations enough?
Answer: The Executive Council is clear that if talks break down or don’t achieve an acceptable outcome, then demonstrating will not be sufficient to move the government, and that strike action will be necessary.
The status of the talks is such that industrial action by FBU members is not required at this time, however it is important that FBU members make their disquiet and anger known, and so we urge members to attend local demonstrations on 30 November.
Question: Is the FBU taking the matter seriously?
Answer: In short, “yes” – and very much so. To give some examples:
The FBU initiated the legal challenge to the indexation change to CPI which is due to be heard in October.
The Executive Council initiated the process of engaging and informing members from our lobby of Parliament in 2010, a huge FBU attendance on the TUC demonstration in March 2011, the “model resolution” which has been the cornerstone of the huge membership canvassing exercise which continues even now in a bid to make sure we speak to every last member.
There have been approximately 20 meetings with government representatives over the past few months alone, alongside discussions with representatives of the employers, discussions with the main parties and government departments and ministers across the UK. Regional and Brigade officials have been continuously lobbying MP’s (as well as AM’s and MSP’s in the 3 devolved administrations), fire authorities and individual councillors and chief officers.
The Executive Council commissioned the Yougov survey which clearly shows that government intentions to raise money through pension scheme changes will be counter-productive.
The Executive Council has commissioned evidenced reports from a range of sources to support our case. These have been presented to the governments in all the countries that comprise the UK, and are a central feature in the current discussions. The issue of pensions has been raised with our employers at the NJC.
Question: Is all this the same for members across the UK, whether they are in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or England?
Answer: Very much so. National, regional and brigade officials and many branch officials have been engaged in this work in all four countries.
Question: I am an FBU member and I am in the LGPS – should I not be taking some form of industrial action on 30 November?
Answer: Whilst the FBU is not one of the major unions in the LGPS discussions we have played an important role in the trade unions’ side-discussions. We continue to campaign in these talks for all control members to be given access to the firefighters scheme.
We will be discussing picket line protocols with unions taking industrial action on 30 November. Those unions will know that the FBU has not balloted its members and the reasons for this.
Further information will follow in due course.
Question: Wouldn’t the talks have been over by now if we had taken strike action already?
Answer: Our very clear assessment is “no”. The talks have now reached a critical stage with the production and availability of a lot of new data and evidence to be considered in the talks.
If strike action was currently being taken, it would simply be taxing our members’ income with no positive effect on the talks.
Question: Will the union simply strike a deal with the government without consulting the membership?
Answer: No. Precise mechanisms are not yet decided, but the Executive Council will consult with members on any outcomes which emerge.
Six unions have mounted a legal challenge on behalf of millions of public sector workers over what inflation index is used to increase their pensions.
A judicial review hearing starts in the High Court on Tuesday (25) to challenge the switch to using the consumer price index (CPI) instead of the traditionally-higher retail price index (RPI) for the annual increase in public sector pensions.
The move – effective from April this year – was announced by chancellor George Osborne in the June 2010 budget, without any consultation or negotiation, who claimed CPI was the more appropriate measure. The unions have always contended it was a deficit reduction measure.
As part of the ongoing talks over wider cuts to public sector pensions, ministers have since ruled out any negotiations on the issue.
The government must review pensions and benefits each year against increases in prices and uprate them by at least the same percentage. September’s inflation figures put CPI at 5.2% and RPI at 5.6%.
Because CPI is around 1.2% lower on average than RPI, the loss to existing public sector pensioners will be around 15%. It is already affecting staff currently paying into career average schemes whose pension pots are revalued annually and will be smaller when they retire.
The switch has also been applied to many private sector pensions, wiping an estimated £75 billion off their value. Some estimates put the figure even higher.
The unions’ case is that the imposed move was not permitted under social security legislation, and that it reneges on assurances given by successive governments that RPI would apply.
The six unions are the Fire Brigades’ Union, teachers’ union NASUWT, Prison Officers Association, Public and Commercial Services union, UNISON and Unite.
All the unions have either already balloted for industrial action, are balloting, or will be supporting the day of action over pensions on 30 November.
There will be a demonstration in support of the judicial review outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL, from 8.30am to 10am on Tuesday 25 October.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said “The government actions are unfair and, we believe, unlawful. This is a vicious attack on existing and future pensioners that could cost them tens of thousands of pounds.
“Pensioners are being forced to bear an unfair burden for the financial crisis caused by the banks. Firefighters will be robbed of thousands of pounds while the bankers who caused the problems continue to count up huge bonuses.
“We’re being told to work a lot longer, pay a lot more and now get a lot less. Hard hit pensioners don’t feel ‘we’re all in it together’ when the chancellor’s chums in the City still have their snouts in the trough at our expense.”
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates: “The question the court is being asked to answer is whether it is just and fair to arbitrarily change the basis on which pensions are calculated, reducing their value by thousands of pounds.
“The government’s actions are a breach of the contract with ordinary working people. We are looking to the court to make sure that millions of ordinary workers will not be left facing a bleak and uncertain future at a time when cost of living is soaring.”
POA deputy general secretary Mark Freeman said: “Once again the government has shown its willingness to attack the vulnerable in society to protect their friends in the financial institutions. The trade unions will demonstrate their support for pensioners on 30 November and the POA urges all right thinking workers to demonstrate on that day.”
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The switch from RPI to CPI is just another example of how this government wants public servants, pensioners and people entitled to benefits to pay the heaviest price for the recession. For new entrants to the civil service it means an immediate cut in their pensions, ripping up an agreement we reached just a few years ago.
“As well as challenging this in court, the unions are mounting the widest, most co-ordinated industrial action we have seen in our lifetimes, to force the government to think again and show how out of touch millionaire ministers are with the lives and concerns of the rest of us.”
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “UNISON is backing this judicial review because we cannot allow the coalition to run roughshod over pensioners.
“The way that a country treats its citizens when they retire is a mark of a decent and fair society. The government has stepped over that mark – the switch is nothing but a cynical, multi-million pound raid on pensioners to pay down a deficit they did nothing to cause. This flawed measure of inflation does not even include housing costs – a major expenditure for many retired people.
“Instead of clobbering pensioners, and people on benefits, the government should impose a tiny tax on financial transactions that would raise billions.”
Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey said: “Our legal challenge against the coalition government is hugely significant for workers in both the public and private sectors.
“Public sector workers face an opportunistic attack on their pensions by this government, but many workers in the private sector have also been affected.
“Vested interests are trying to create a wedge between public and private sector workers, when in reality they have common cause on this. We know that some private sector employers are already attempting to move to the lower inflation index citing the government’s example. In reality this government wants us all to work for longer and for less.”
FBU press office 020 8541 1765 or 07736 818100
NASUWT press officer Stuart Gannon 07966 198894
POA press officer Glyn Travis 07968 324045
PCS press officer Richard Simcox 020 7801 2747 or 07833 978216
UNISON press officer Anne Mitchell 020 7383 0717 or 07887 945307
UNITE press officer Ciaran Naidoo 07768 931315
Privatisation of London fire training and of the fire control centre would compromise safety and bring high financial risks
A new report warns that plans to privatise London Fire Brigade training and the fire control centre would compromise safety whilst imposing new high financial risks on the capital’s fire service. The European Services Strategy Unit, jointly commissioned by the FBU, GMB and UNISON, has released its report examining plans to privatise London’s Fire Service Training and Control Centre.
The report highlights the poor performance of previous Public Private Partnerships, finding that one in five (20%) of PPP strategic partnership contracts have either been terminated, reduced in scope, or suffered significant operational and/or financial problems. This is a higher rate than for PFI projects and imposes many more risks for the London Fire and Emergency Services.
Darren Johnson, Green Fire Authority member said “I don’t want to see pivotal London Fire Brigade services privatised as we have seen far too many privatisations that have been costly and ineffective. That is why I welcome these proposals that call on the Fire Brigade to work with staff and unions in designing improved in-house provision for training and fire control.”
The cross union stance has also been supported by Ken Livingstone and Former Fire Authority member Val Shawcross. They have called on Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson to drop plans to rush through the privatisation of the London Fire Brigade control centre.
Ken Livingstone said: “Under a Tory Mayor and his Tory fire supremo Conservative ideology is being put before the interests of ordinary Londoners. Londoners not shareholders must come first.
“London’s mayor should be protecting our emergency services not privatising them. I cannot think of a more unjustifiable, foolish or dangerous policy under this mayor than privatising the control centre of the fire brigade. It is a new low.
“My commitment to Londoners is that I will campaign flat out against this plan, and from the outset of my administration, if I am elected, there will be a fresh approach at the Fire Brigade – and Boris Johnson’s privatiser in chief, Brian Coleman, will be sacked as the chair of the fire authority.”
Controversial Fire Authority Chair, Brian Coleman has brought forward the time table for the outsourcing of both training and the control centre to ensure that they are pushed through before next year’s GLA elections. At a recent Fire Authority meeting when asked ‘are there any functions of LFEPA that you believe are inappropriate for take-over by private operators?’ Brian Coleman replied ‘No, in the right circumstances.’
It is the belief of all three unions that the rushed drive to push through these privatisations will put Londoner safety in jeopardy and increase long term costs.
Amongst the report’s recommendations are to retain in-house provision of training and immediately implement localised training arrangements and immediately amend the Fire Control procurement to withdraw the managed services option. The project to design, build, provide and maintain control and mobilising ICT services should proceed.
The three stage decision making process starts next week and culminates in next month’s Fire Authority meeting. Changes to the rules of how the fire authority is constituted after the last mayoral election mean the Conservative group have an overall majority which would enable them to push these controversial plans through unchecked.
Gordon Fielden FBU, 07854 998515
Tony Phillips UNISON, 07584583971
Charles Adje, GMB 07852961517
Vic Bagnelle, GMB Control, 07917072531
1. Brian Coleman refuses to rule out wholesale privatisation of London Fire Brigade
(iv) Question No. 285 – by Mr Mike Tuffrey AM
In light of FEP 1703 ‘Proposed response to DCLG consultation on the Future of Fire Service Control Rooms in England and replacement of our existing mobilising system’ which states “responsibility for day to day service delivery should then be outsourced wherever possible” are there any functions of LFEPA that you believe are inappropriate for take-over by private operators?
The following reply was circulated to all Members prior to the Authority:-
Brian Coleman – No, in the right circumstances.
Mr Tuffrey – Clearly there are cases where it makes sense to buy in goods and services: we don’t build our own fire stations; we don’t build our own fire engines; we don’t even maintain our own fire engines, although that is a topic for further discussion later on in the agenda. But to say that we should outsource services wherever possible, does that not mean that essentially you are saying, ideologically speaking, you prefer the profit motive as the basic approach? I’m not sure that Londoners will agree that the profit motive is the way to run the fire service. So can I invite you to re-phrase your answer to say – “Only in the right circumstances”?
Chairman – My answer stands.
The FBU has been building up solid arguments and evidence to challenge to government’s attack on our pensions. We have commissioned these independent reports to support our case.
Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary said: “The FBU executive council believes that these reports should be widely read and the arguments in these documents should be discussed by all stakeholders in the fire and rescue service. Once again, I would like to reiterate my hope that these documents, which broadly support the arguments put forward by the union, also help to raise the level of discussion on pensions.”
Pension Schemes in the Fire Service and the Independent Public Service Pensions Commission, an independent report by Tony Cutler and Barbara Waine.
A scoping study: Review of aging and the demands on firefighting by Richard Graveling and Joanne Crawford on behalf of the Institute of Occupational Medicine IOM.
A report on the impact of the governments’ proposal for members of the firefighters’ pension scheme and the new firefighters’ pension scheme; by Rob Hammond of First Actuarial consultants.
The FBU has formally presented these documents to the minister responsible for fire in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales along with an initial submission Protecting good quality occupational pensions in the fire and rescue service.
19 October 2011
TO: ALL MEMBERS (HOME ADDRESSES)
The Executive Council met yesterday (October 18) to assess the current situation around our campaign to defend pensions. This included report backs from discussions at our Committees across the UK as well as reports from the most recent meetings with Government ministers and officials.
The most significant development to be considered was the decision of the Westminster Government to comply with the FBU request not to set an immediate cost ceiling for the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme. This clearly does not resolve the issue in any way. It does however offer us an opportunity to try influence Government before any such cost ceiling is set. Among TUC trade unions, this has put us in a unique position since cost ceilings have now been set for the main public sector schemes.
A major concern of our colleagues in other unions has been a refusal by Government to engage in serious dialogue or genuine negotiations in the other pension scheme talks. Frustration at this is a key feature of the current campaigns in a number of unions. In relation to the Firefighters scheme it would be dishonest of us to make such a claim at this time. Ministers have met us on several occasions; have agreed to all meetings requested; have currently provided all information asked for and have allocated actuaries and pension officials to assist in talks.
It is important to note that none of this means the core issues will be resolved – there remain very serious disagreements. It simply means that in terms of current talks we cannot say that Government are refusing to engage in a dialogue. Most significantly, ministers have agreed to a very important demand from the FBU i.e. not to set the cost ceiling immediately.
As a result of these and other considerations, the Executive Council concluded that there should not be an immediate move to industrial action. Such action may become necessary and the next few weeks will be crucial in assessing the Government position before such a decision is made.
I attach a statement agreed from the Executive Council to further explain the position. Further reports will be provided to Committees and Branches.
Cumbria Fire Brigades Union vow campaign goes on to halt rushed plans to axe County’s fire control centre
Cumbria’s fire crews say their campaign to stop the axing of the County’s only fire control centre will go on. The union says the plans are ill-thought out, a bad deal for council tax payers and could increase risk to the public and local fire crews.
Ade Kevern, FBU brigade secretary and a local firefighter said: “The council scrutiny panel rubber stamped the plans on 12 October but our campaign goes on. Our control centre has never failed when called upon to protect our communities at major incidents and the other 999 emergencies we deal with.
“These plans remain ill-thought out, a bad deal for council tax payers and could increase the risk to the public and fire crews. It’s a blow to the County with the loss of 12 highly skilled jobs that will never be replaced.
“The control centre is at the heart of what we do as a fire service. They are the critical point of contact between the public of Cumbria and the firefighters trying to assist them in real emergencies.
“The control is critical to managing the resources of the Cumbria fire service at all emergencies, especially major ones such as flooding. No one who does this work and understands it thinks that can be done from Cheshire.
“We are not convinced the technology will be in place if the move goes ahead to deal with all the work our fire control does. If the county council has it, we’d like them to demonstrate how it will work to those who currently work in our control.
“There is nothing we have heard to suggest that axing the control and shipping the work off to Cheshire is going to enhance our emergency response. This is slash and burn cuts and we may live to regret this if it goes ahead.
“The plans are a stepping stone for a further move from Cheshire’s control to a regional control centre which has already run into problems. Merseyside has already pulled out of the move, leaving the other fire services with at least a £1 million hole in the budget.
“We are not convinced the county councillors truly understand what they have signed up for and the cost which may hit them down the road. They must wake up and think again.”
Brigade Secretary (Cumbria)
Control Branch Secretary
Control Branch Chair
Mob:- 07887 602863