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Row erupts over Hereford firefighter contracts

16 February 2018

THE FIRE Brigades Union (FBU) has slammed Hereford and Worchester Fire Authority who it claims has granted permission for all firefighters to be sacked in two weeks if an agreement cannot be reached on a new duty system.

The Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS) would then offer firefighters re-employment but with inferior contracts, including working longer hours, according to the FBU.

It had been hoped that the fire authority would defer the decision in order to allow negotiations between the service and the union to continue. However, authority members who backed this position lost the vote. More than 40 FBU members lobbied councillor's outside the fire authority meeting.

Regional FBU representative Barry Downey said: “This is a deplorable thing for the authority to have done. How can we negotiate in good faith with this threat hanging over our heads? They have voted to punish firefighters, to make them feel more insecure at work. These are bullying tactics from a fire authority that does not seem to care about the people who deliver a life-saving public service. The FBU will not stand for it. To say we are angry and disappointed is an understatement”.

HWFRS responded by stating that the primary reason for introducing the new systems is to put crews of five back on full-time staffed fire engines across the two counties, at no additional cost to the Service.

A statement from HWFRS said: “The proposed new duty systems would, in fact, not require any firefighter to work more than the 42 positive hours, on average, per week which they are currently contracted and remunerated to do. 

“Currently firefighters who work on the day crewing duty system get paid to work 42 hours per week, on average, although they only work 35 positive hours per week, on average, at station or in the community. For the remaining seven hours per week they are on-call at home and are only required to respond to the station within 5 minutes – the same as an on-call firefighter.

“The Service is asking its firefighting personnel to work those seven hours positively on station or in the community as well, which then provides enough extra capacity to increase the crewing levels at those stations from four personnel to five – the primary reason why the Service are making the changes in the first place and something the FBU have actively campaigned for.

“The new duty systems suggestion is the result of 12 months of extensive and constructive consultation and negotiation between all parties, which would see investment in more full-time firefighter posts (offset by a reduction in the current number of supervisory manager posts) - with firefighters working more flexibly by self-rostering within their teams in order to maximise the efficiency of the duty systems.

“The current agreement struck between the Service and the FBU meets all of HWFRS's priorities and following the Fire Authority meeting on 14 February, the Fire Authority has supported its implementation whilst being mindful to reach a collective agreement before 1 March.

“Should an agreement not be reached by 1 March, a process to make a start to new contracts will be commenced.”