Thursday 8 March marks International Women’s Day. This day has been observed since the early 1900′s. With more women in male dominated jobs, an increase in equality in legislative rights and an increase of women’s visibility as role models in every aspect of life, you could think that women have gained true equality. The unfortunate fact is that women are still not paid equally to that of their male counterparts, women are still not present in equal numbers in business or politics, women still face discrimination during pregnancy/maternity and globally women’s education, health and the violence against them is far worse than that of men.
The fire service is no different from any other organisation when it comes to potential discrimination during pregnancy. There are increasing numbers of women members being removed or threatened to be removed from their shift during pregnancy. The FBU has seen an increase in the amount of grievances our women members are taking out against their fire and rescue service when they become pregnant.
The common argument from the fire and rescue service is one of productivity therefore changing women’s shift patterns and working arrangements in order to fulfil another role. Many cases are mirrored throughout the UK with some ending up in an employment tribunal.
The Grey Book clearly states that “Pregnant employees will normally remain on their watch, or in their department, unless this is deemed inappropriate following an individual risk assessment”.
We have found that fire and rescue services rarely carry out an individual risk assessment but still try and remove members from their shift/department.
I would urge any members who have been told that they need to move from their current shift whilst pregnant to contact their FBU rep and seek advice.
The coalition government are also planning another attack on women’s rights by proposing a reduction in maternity leave to 18 weeks. Reducing the maternity leave period to 18 weeks gives the message that this is the normal period of leave needed for women to prepare and recover from childbirth and to bond and care for a newborn baby.
Under the government’s proposals, there is an increased risk that some women will be pressured to return to work early by their employer or a partner if 18 weeks is seen as the ‘norm’ for maternity, particularly if there is a lack of job security or the family has financial worries.
The FBU are responding to these proposals along with the TUC and objecting to any such reduction.
On a final note – International Women’s Day should not be a reminder about the negatives but a celebration of the positives and thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements.
So make a difference, think globally and act locally. Make everyday International Women’s Day. Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls and women is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.
Denise Christie, FBU executive council member for women
The Fire Brigades Union is supporting a new campaign the Energy Bill Revolution, which launches today. The campaign calls on the government to use the money it gets from carbon tax revenue to make UK homes super-energy efficient. One in four households can’t afford to heat their homes. Cold homes are damaging the health of our most vulnerable citizens. The fair and permanent solution is to use carbon taxes to warm homes and reduce fuel bills.
120 North East firefighters are travelling to London on the 26th March after the Fire Brigades Union revealed that the North East region will be amongst the hardest hit by cuts to the fire and rescue service (FRS).
The FBU has discovered that the fire service in Cleveland, Durham & Darlington, Northumberland and Tyne & Wear face at least £6.6m cuts in the next year alone, among the worst hit in the country. Some 120 (the same size as the delegation to London) frontline firefighters’ jobs are earmarked to be cut in the same period – and 155 jobs in the four fire and rescue services overall, with much worse to come over the following four years!
But firefighters from the North East will not accept the cuts. They are joining thousands of others at the TUC demonstration in London.
“The reality is that despite being told by Central Government and some senior managers that ‘frontline’ services will remain unaffected, firefighters know the real situation. Funding reductions, which are due to get worse over the next four years, will inevitably reduce the number of firefighters and fire appliances, consequently emergency attendance times will increase; making life much more dangerous for firefighters and ultimately much less safe for communities in general. What we’re seeing this year is merely the tip of the iceberg; if these cuts go ahead the North East FRSs will be unrecognisable and certainly won’t reflect a modern effective FRS that taxpayers deserve – firefighting is at the frontline of the frontline, cuts such as these expose the lies of some politicians” Andy Noble – Executive Council Member FBU North East.“I and colleagues are going to London on March 26th to protest against the dogmatic attack on public services by this Tory led coalition. The effect that these savage cuts are having in Durham and Darlington FRS has resulted in the proposed loss of up to 40 uniformed frontline posts and 20 non uniformed jobs. This is a total turnaround from a government which stated “frontline emergency services would be protected”. Tony Curry – FBU Brigade Secretary Durham & Darlington.“Cleveland members are attending the demo as a result of 100 job losses (approx.) over the next 4 years, including 26 frontline firefighter posts, less people doing more work for no more pay, at the same time as a 3% pension’s increase and a proposed three year wage freeze. Also to highlight the issue of the Comprehensive Spending Review and funding arrangements for fire and rescue services, in which Cleveland is adversely affected because Industrial Risk is not recognised sufficiently! ” Dave Howe – FBU Brigade Chair Cleveland Fire & Rescue.“The T&W delegation is going to London to demonstrate the anger felt by firefighters along with other public sector workers at the vicious attack on Fire Service funding and the unprecedented attacks on frontline services along with the disgraceful attack on public sector pensions. T&W are losing up to 170 jobs and could lose four fire appliances as a result of being forced to make £13m cuts. These cuts will lead to a poorer service to the residents of T&W and will inevitably lead to an increased risk to Firefighter and public safety.” Dave Turner – FBU Brigade Secretary Tyne and Wear FRS.“In the previous two years Northumberland FRS has already been subjected to the loss of frontline posts and closure of fire stations. Further losses and the potential of a merger with Cumbria FRS would do absolutely nothing for public or firefighter safety. It’s imperative that we demonstrate our objections to the destruction of frontline services because despite pre-election promises, it would appear that these are now legitimate targets, even to the extent that the County Council are contemplating ‘Off-Loading’ Fire and Rescue provision to other bodies, which is not what Northumberland residents voted for at the last election”. Mandy Cregin – FBU Brigade Chair Northumberland FRS.***ENDS***
Andy Noble (Executive Council Member) 07827300065
Peter Wilcox (Regional Secretary) 07827300063
Dave Howe (Cleveland Brigade Chair) 07827300070
Tony Curry (Durham & Darlington Brigade Secretary) 07827300073
Mandy Cregin (Northumberland Brigade Chair) 07827300064
Dave Turner (Tyne & Wear Brigade Secretary) 07827300066
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13th February 2011
Twenty seven London fire engines are being held at a secret location by the private company AssetCo. They were originally taken away pending a resolution of the dispute between the London Fire Brigade and the Fire Brigades Union – but agreement to end the dispute was signed on Friday, and they have still not been returned.
The resolution of the dispute follows a meeting of the union’s London committee to consider outstanding issues.
FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack said: “Londoners will not understand why their fire engines are being held by a private contractor instead of being returned to fire stations. The Chief Fire Officer and Councillor Brian Coleman have repeatedly claimed that these fire engines are available and will be returned as soon as the dispute is ended. It is now ended and yet they are still unable to return them. The fire service is a 24 hour a day emergency service. London firefighters will be on duty all this weekend, waiting for the fire engines to be returned. Yet it appears that principal management and their friends at AssetCo are only able to work during so-called normal office hours.”
FBU Executive Council Member for London Ian Leahair said: “London has seen an increase in high rise fires and firefighter injuries in recent months and yet those appliances are still not available to deliver the much needed fire cover for Londoners.”
Francis Beckett 020 8349 9194 or 07813 001372