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Firefighters deliver “decisive mandate” for industrial action

30 January 2023

FIREFIGHTERS ACROSS the UK have delivered a “decisive mandate” for strike action, with 88% voting ‘Yes’ to such action being taken on a 73% turnout. The strike ballot opened on 5 December and closed on 30 January.

Two separate simultaneous ballots, held in Northern Ireland and among Control Room staff in the North West of England, also delivered “strong” results. In Northern Ireland, 94% of members have voted in favour of action.

In the hope of averting strike action, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has given the Government and employers ten days to come forward with an improved offer, which could then be put to a vote of members.  

If they go ahead, the strikes would be the first nationwide fire strike over pay since 2003. For clarity, FBU members rejected a ‘below inflation’ proposal of a 5% pay offer in November last year.

The vote on industrial action follows on from what the FBU describes as “more than a decade” of real terms pay cuts. The news comes as fresh research shows that firefighters are significantly more likely to develop cancer than the general population.

Polls highlight that public support for strike action by firefighters is strong (by around two-to-one in favour). 58% of the general public support strike action being taken, while 33% are opposed to it.

Overwhelming vote

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: “Firefighters across the UK have spoken. The Fire Brigades Union has a decisive mandate for strike action.  This is an overwhelming vote for strike action against a pay offer which would mean further significant cuts to real terms wages for firefighters and Control Room staff. They have already lost at least 12% of the value of their pay since 2010.”

Wrack continued: “This is an absolute last resort for our members. The responsibility for any disruption to services lies squarely with Fire and Rescue Service employers and Government ministers. Rishi Sunak’s Government has refused to make funding available for a decent pay offer to firefighters and Control Room staff.”

Further, Wrack observed: “Firefighters were among Britain’s COVID-19 heroes who kept front line services going during the pandemic. The Prime Minister has badly misjudged the public mood by imposing pay cuts on such key workers.”

Health and Safety  

Wrack has noted that FBU members “risk their Health and Safety, and sometimes their lives” around the clock to keep people safe and serve their communities. However, with inflation and energy bills rocketing, they are now increasingly struggling to pay the bills or to afford even the basics.

“The Government and the employers have the power to prevent strikes from happening by making a credible pay offer that can resolve this dispute. The ball is in their court. We have delayed calling strikes to allow the employers to meet us and make a new offer. I hope they take that opportunity. Otherwise, in the coming weeks, we intend to announce a series of strike dates and industrial action.”