National Bulletin - March 2021
LGA Conference 2021
This week has seen LGA annual fire conference take place ‘virtually’. Guest speakers included the Fire Minister, Lord Greenhalgh and Sir Tom Winsor from HMICFRS.
It is evident from both of these speeches that the recommendations contained in the inaugural ‘State of Fire’ report back in December 2019 will be the primary focus for the government over the next 12-18 months. Just to recap, these recommendations include a reform of the pay negotiation machinery, introducing a Code of Ethics to help tackle problems with an unhealthy culture in a number of services and operational independence for Chief Fire Officers. There will also be a government white paper likely to be published this spring/summer.
The FRSA met with the fire minister last month during which he praised the efforts of all the firefighters that have stepped up to the plate and assisted the NHS during the pandemic. Sir Tom Windsor during his speech also praised the FRSA, Fire Officers Association and Unison for their positive approach towards facilitating local agreements to allow their members to perform duties outside of the national role map. The pandemic has highlighted many areas of good practise between emergency services and how further collaboration and a broadening of the role of a firefighter can be beneficial to employees, employers and the public. As an organisation, we relish the opportunity to be a part of arrangements to help shape the future Fire and Rescue Service model. In our view arguing for the status-quo will not benefit our members, their pay, their job security or the sustainability of the Fire sector. The pandemic has demonstrated the wide-ranging role firefighters can play in the community and we must seek to build upon the good work that has been made over the last 12 months.
Following the most recent lockdown and the increased transmission rate of the virus, we witnessed a significant number of cases where members were having to self-isolate either through contracting the virus or came into contact with the virus whilst on duty. This created a problem specifically for our On-Call members whereby their primary employment was also affected. We therefore wrote to all Chief Fire Officers seeking their support for any of their staff who were suffering financial detriment from their primary employment due to having to self-isolate due to contact made whilst carrying out their fire service role.
The response has been extremely positive, and we are grateful to all services that have agreed to treat such individuals as if they were suffering an injury on duty (for pay purposes). This has alleviated a situation that could have led to financial hardship for some families. The only service to refused to assist is Scottish Fire and Rescue Service who have chosen to decline to provide this assistance.
Modified Scheme – Second Options Exercise
As it’s been a while since our previous update it’s probably timely to provide the latest on the negotiations for the second options exercise of the modified pension scheme. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything tangible that can be shared at this moment in time other than to say talks are ongoing, progress is still being made and we are hopeful that an agreement will be made within the next few months. As per our previous comments, we will provide members with a more informed update as soon as there is something meaningful to share.
Pay 4 Availability
Last year the fire service in Devon and Somerset implemented a trial for an alternative pay model for their On-Call firefighters that recognised the importance of providing availability. The trial, which seeks to increase pay for firefighters and improve appliance availability, is currently taking place and generating some interest from other services across the country.
In an effort to provide members with an overview of the current situation we have put together a video which can be viewed below.
Discrimination in the workplace
Followers of our bulletins will be acutely aware of a campaign to remove discrimination within the workplace of all Fire and Rescue services across the UK, something that in 2021 you would be forgiven for thinking would be an easy task and welcomed by senior leaders. However, we still witness discrimination based on the duty system worked by operational firefighters and we will continue to expose those services who refuse to accept that a firefighter is a firefighter irrespective of their working pattern. It is ironic that a number of these prejudices come from within services that outwardly promote a diverse workforce and equality for minority groups.
On a positive note, the tide is definitely turning, and due to our efforts, both locally and nationally, some services have amended their recruitment processes and agreed to accept applications from operational personnel working the retained duty system, recognising their skills, experience and qualifications rather than focusing on their working pattern. We are hopeful that progress will continue to be made and firefighters will be recognised for their attributes and qualities irrespective of the duty system that they work.
Our campaign is designed to raise awareness of the issue and educate staff, managers, leaders and elected members as to just how damaging these beliefs are and in direct contrast to part-time workers legislation, fairness and common sense.
Our offer to you
A new information leaflet is available encapsulating the key benefits of being a member of the FRSA. The document is available via our website and we would recommend that this is shared with your colleagues on station.