New Fire Minister
Following the change in Prime Minister and a subsequent government reshuffle, the Police and Fire Service have yet another new Minister, Kit Malthouse MP. Mr Malthouse was the Deputy Mayor (London) for Business and Enterprise (2012-2016) before being elected an MP in 2015.
Mr Malthouse is the ninth Fire Minister (as of 2016 Police and Fire Minister when the Fire Service came under the umbrella of the Home Office) in ten years. We have already written to Mr Malthouse seeking a meeting to share our views on the direction the service needs to take if, for example the role is to provide firefighters with a meaningful and competitive set of terms and conditions in tandem with a broadening of the role.
Will the new Minister have a greater impetus towards Fire and kick-start change at national level, only time will tell?
Pay and Conditions Update
As we predicted back in our July e-bulletin, the outcome of the national pay award has been agreed at 2% in line with other parts of the public sector. This unnecessary delay means that rather than the award being in operation as of 01 July 2019, two months have passed following which the inevitable agreement within the NJC has taken place.
The uplift however will be backdated to 01 July 2019 which mirrors the arrangements in previous years.
This generic public sector pay increase does not reflect the dedication and commitment provided on a daily basis by firefighters across the UK. Until there is some progress made regarding the matter of the broadening of the role, the remuneration package will continue to rise at a slow rate. As an organisation that regularly speaks with personnel from all four corners of the UK, we know that the majority of firefighters want to have a wider opportunity to serve and protect the public but are being let down by stakeholders on the national stage. As the clock continues to tick, more and more firefighters are choosing to leave their respective fire service due to the lack of progress being made, this loss of experience and knowledge is irreplaceable and the fire sector is worse off for it.
We will not stop making representations at local and national level raising our concerns and will continue to do so on our members’ behalf.
Recognition and representation
You may recall that earlier this year Kent Fire Authority afforded the FRSA with local recognition. It is becoming clear from the introduction of the inspectorate and the subsequent inspection reports published, that having a more representative industrial relations environment rather than a single union voice is actually beneficial to service management and employees. Having more than just one union recognised to represent the entire workforce provides wider representation of all groups.
We have now been approached by another FRS that wishes to engage with the FRSA and we anticipate that the local Fire Authority will approve collective bargaining rights (covering all Grey Book employees) to the Association in the coming weeks. Members will be notified of the decision as and when it happens.
Devon and Somerset Proposals
Back in July this year Devon and Somerset FRS set out its plans in a consultation document (Safer Together) to generate revenue and capital savings through station closures, the removal of frontline appliances and duty system changes to Wholetime units.
We have strongly opposed these changes in their entirety and have constructed and sustained a campaign over recent months which has been welcomed by fire service personnel, politicians and the public alike.
The local branch of the Association gave a presentation to the Fire Authority last week which included a Q&A session. The consultation process is due to close on 22 September 2019. We are hopeful that through our campaign which includes an alternative package of proposals using hybrid methods of service delivery, that we can keep stations open, maintain frontline appliances and incur no job losses.
The campaign, which has been managed entirely at a local level by the FRSA branch has demonstrated the power of argument both in terms of being able to dismantle the proposals from senior management but also providing an opportunity for the service to be managed and delivered in a different way. The response from the public has been truly astonishing and exhibits just how much they value their emergency provision.