E-Bulletin – October 2018

Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018

A new law protecting emergency workers from assault received Royal Assent on 13 September 2018. The legislation provides:

  • maximum sentence for assault against them to double from 6 to 12 months in prison
  • courts must also consider the strongest penalties for other offences against emergency workers

The new law will also mean that judges must consider tougher sentences for a range of other offences – including GBH and sexual assault – if the victim is an emergency worker.

Recent years have seen an increase in assaults on emergency workers, with an 18% increase experienced by firefighters in the past 2 years too. There was already a specific offence for assaulting a police officer, but for the first time similar protection will be extended to anyone carrying out the work of an emergency service. The law also provides extra protection to unpaid volunteers who support the delivery of emergency services.

The FRSA welcomes the added protection the bill offers our members.

Professional Standards Body

The introduction of a dedicated Professional Standards Body (PSB) for Fire is getting ever closer. The composition of the PSB Board is yet to be finalised but the board is expected to meet for the first time next month. It is imperative that stakeholders form part of the national arrangement to ensure a balance of views when standards are formulated next year.

The Association has pushed for the creation of a PSB to mirror that of the Police structure and therefore provide greater continuity of operational practice across all services in the country.  We envisage that this will provide opportunities for good practice to become the norm with justification needing to be provided to vary away from an agreed standard.

Further information will be made available to members as the PSB develops its structure.

Matzak case – Working Time

The case of the Belgium Firefighter Rudy Matzak was heard at the Court of Justice of the European Union earlier this year and ruled that stand-by time of the Belgium firefighters must be regarded as ‘working time’. This could have wide-ranging implications on the Retained Duty System in the UK (despite Brexit) if the judgement was deemed to be applicable to the current arrangements in the UK.

However, currently there appears to be no legal opinion that has been made available within the sector to suggest that this would be the case. It is likely that due to the specific arrangements surrounding the Matzak judgement and the requirement for these volunteer firefighters to be restricted to their home when on ‘stand-by’, that the subtle differences with that of the UK arrangements might deem the judgement not to be applicable to RDS employees.

Again, we will keep members informed when further information becomes available.

Pay Negotiations

You will now be aware that the 2% pay offer submitted by Employers back in July 2018 was accepted by the FBU earlier this month and backdated to 01 July 2018. Why this offer was not accepted immediately with a view to wider pay reform is anybody’s guess. However, we understand that the Fire and Police Minister, Nick Hurd MP, is still awaiting a formal proposal from the National Joint Council (NJC) that includes a structured pay increase alongside a broadening of the firefighter role. We are aware of similar proposals in other areas of the public sector so we understand that the minister is looking for a similar deal in the fire service.

While progress has been painfully slow regarding this matter and we also understand that the Home Office has offered to progress an independent pay review which has yet to be accepted or rejected by the NJC. We assume a review similar to that of 2002 when Sir George Bain undertook his evaluation of the service as a whole.

In our view there remains an impasse with no end in sight. While all of this is going on (or not going on) firefighters are left in the middle, desperately in need of a pay rise and the majority also agreeable to broadening their operational role.

If you feel that your current representative body isn’t looking after your best interests perhaps you’d welcome a visit from one of our local officials to explain the benefits of becoming a member of the Association.

We will of course continue to provide updates on this important issue.

Crews of Three

More and more fire services are looking to introduce a ridership of three in certain circumstances to specific types of incidents. The Association is not directly opposed to such a procedure so long as certain criteria is met, most notably that firefighters on a station want to respond with a crew of three.

This level of crewing should only be viewed as an interim measure and as part of a wider service recruitment and retention strategy with an aim for higher crewing levels.

As a member-led organisation we are interested in your views on this subject which can be shared with your local FRSA committee or by emailing our HQ.

We very much look forward to hearing from you.

Emergency Services Times (EST)

The latest edition (October) of the EST is now available via this link for our members. If you haven’t already signed up (it’s FREE) please feel free to do so.