National News Round-up – Feb 2014

Over the last few months there have been a number of FRS consultation documents that have included proposed changes to fire stations and the method of crewing fire stations, in an effort to find financial savings within their service. Some of these proposals had the potential to impact on our members and some have not.

We have naturally placed more emphasis on proposals that have a detrimental impact on our members (and the communities which they serve) in an effort to prevent station closures and job losses.

The most notable of these recent proposals relate to Cumbria and Hereford and Worcester, both of which propose at least one station closure and the removal of RDS appliances.

In terms of Cumbria we have had partial success by saving five RDS appliances on two-pump stations. However, our fight to save the closure of Dalton Fire Station and the change of crewing at Ulverston continues.

With regards to Hereford and Worcester FRS, it is worth noting that the RFU was taken to task by the service for misquoting information as fact. Not the case at all, as the quotes which we included in our response were the result of a ‘Freedom of Information’ request to the service and were the services own figures!

The result of the consultation exercise is that HWFRS has significantly amended their proposals, now looking to remove three RDS appliances and two wholetime appliances. This means that four RDS pumps have been saved and an additional four RDS stations have been saved from closure. While this is extremely positive news for a large number of RDS staff we will continue to fight against the removal of an appliance at Ledbury Fire Station.

What is very important for all RDS staff to be aware of is where their best interests lie. Hereford and Worcester is a perfect example. While the RFU is solely focused on fighting for its Retained membership, other organisations appear to have a pecking order in terms of which duty system takes priority when support is required from both Wholetime and Retained.

We know that this has always been the case but it has never been as obvious as over recent months.

[box type=”tick” style=”rounded”]If you are Retained and value your job there is only one organisation that will give you 100% support with no strings attached![/box]

The Knight Report

The recent consultation documents contain proposals which appear to unofficially ring-fence certain operational jobs, we are hugely disappointed, it is as if the Knight Report never existed! Some proposals fail to provide the necessary value for money to the taxpayer and seem to be designed to minimise the ‘flack’ otherwise aimed towards senior managers and politicians alike.

There has, for far too long been a lack of scrutiny within local government to ensure any proposed changes represent best value and promote public/employee safety. We believe something has to change if the fire service is to truly modernise at a quicker pace than we have witnessed over the last 10 years.

Ill-health pension

Most members either join the RFU to provide themselves and their family with support should the unexpected happen or because their values and beliefs match our own. But one of the biggest challenges that a firefighter and the RFU can face is when a member is injured on duty and unable to return back to operational activities.

An example of such an incident has recently been drawn to a conclusion. The original injury was sustained in 2006 and has only just been concluded to both ours and our member’s satisfaction.
Throughout the entire process our member has been unable to work in any capacity causing significant financial hardship. His FRS employer, who he should have reasonably expected to look after him during his time of need, not only dismissed him but at every stage denied his incapacity was either work related or permanent.

Thankfully through out intervention and continued involvement the matter has reached a successful conclusion which will provide both he and his family with financial stability for the foreseeable future; however the example demonstrates that far too frequently FRS employees are left high and dry and not appropriately supported by their employers.

That’s why it is so important that you are a member of the RFU. You may be fortunate enough to never need our involvement yourself but your subscriptions are used to help others and as an organisation we look after our own.

Visit to Scotland

On the 4th of February, John Barton and Jim Kilpatrick our RFU Scotland rep met with ACO Peter Murray (Scottish Fire and Rescue Service) in Edinburgh. The purpose of the meeting was to engage with the RFU and seek our views on how the On-Call aspect of fire cover might be configured in the future. Naturally we have our own views based around broader support from primary employers and closer working with other neighbourhood stakeholders. This meeting was not a one off and Jim Kilpatrick will be the RFU’s main point of contact going forward as we develop our ideas in greater detail.

Pay on Modified Duties

We have recently become aware that there is an issue with some RDS staff who are placed on ‘modified duties’ (also known as Light or Categorised duties) and the payment they receive.

Experience shows that on occasions, by agreeing to return to ‘Modified duties’ members have been disadvantaged when their employing service has reduced pay to retainer fee and drill night payments only. It is natural for a member to want to return to the station as soon as possible after injury but this should not result in a loss of pay and we will challenge this on every occasion.

Our view is that no member should be financially worse off due to being placed on ‘modified duties’ by their FRS employer. There are provisions available to ensure that there is no detriment to RDS staff. If you or someone you know is in this position and not receiving the necessary remuneration, please get in touch with either your local official or RFU HQ.

Modified Pension Scheme – update

Understandably members frequently enquire as to whether there has been any developments regarding the ability to ‘buy-back’ pension rights under the part-time workers less favourable treatment legislation. We are still in the hands of central government, and await their response to the consultation exercise undertaking last year.

As soon as information comes available we will let members know.