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TUC pledges to defend collective bargaining in Fire and Rescue Service

21 September 2020

TRADE UNIONS have voted to defend the right of firefighters and Control Room staff to collectively negotiate pay and conditions after a Government inspection body “attacked” the role of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

A report produced by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) back in January recommended a pay review body be imposed on firefighters and control staff.

A motion passed at the Trades Union Congress (TUC) 2020, largely happening online due to the Coronavirus pandemic, said there is “no basis” for the “political attack” on collective bargaining in the Fire and Rescue Service.

Currently, firefighters and control staff are represented by the FBU at the National Joint Council (NJC), where pay and conditions are negotiated with Fire and Rescue Service employers, advised by Chief Fire Officers. The NJC publishes the Grey Book, which outlines working conditions and role maps for firefighters and control staff.

The TUC has declared that “any moves by the Westminster Government to break up the NJC and the Grey Book would damage industrial relations and disrupt the UK Fire and Rescue Service” and, further, has pledged to support the FBU’s campaign to maintain collective bargaining.

Collective bargaining delivered the Fire and Rescue Service’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic, with a joint agreement between the FBU, fire chiefs and Fire and Rescue Services that has been in place since March.

The negotiations have allowed firefighters to drive ambulances, deliver vital supplies to the elderly and the vulnerable, move the bodies of the deceased, assemble PPE and train care home staff in infection, prevention and control measures.

In a separate motion, the TUC thanked firefighters for their work in responding to the Coronavirus pandemic, noting that these activities were made possible and delivered so swiftly as a result of the long-standing collective bargaining arrangements across the UK Fire and Rescue Service.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, commented: “This Government vilified teachers for demanding safe workplaces, threatened transport workers for demanding safe trains and now wants to stop firefighters standing up for themselves. Collective bargaining delivered the Fire and Rescue Service’s response to the pandemic and has seen firefighters take unprecedented steps to assist the NHS and the care sector in general, all while protecting their communities from fire and other emergencies. Thanks to collective bargaining, this has been done safely, avoiding the tragic firefighter COVID-19 deaths seen in other countries.”

In conclusion, Wrack stated: “Each Tory attack on workers leads to lower wages and more dangerous workplaces. The whole Trade Union movement is sending a message to the Government. Collective bargaining works, and we’ll stand together against any attempt to undermine it.”