National Bulletin - October 2021
Modified Pension Scheme (update)
As promised, we wanted to keep members updated on developments regarding the second options exercise to retrospectively join the Modified Pension Scheme. It is pleasing to report that further progress has been made to the point that the finishing line is now in sight. However, as stated in all of our previous communications, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. If there is a development before our next scheduled e-bulletin, our members will be written to immediately, so please do keep an eye on your inbox and our website.
HMICFRS Inspections – second cycle
The second round of full inspections are now fully underway with the second tranche of services either in the throes of being inspected or due to be inspected imminently.
The FRSA will play its full part in these inspections to ensure that our view as a representative of our membership, is provided to the inspection teams.
It is appropriate to remind all fire service staff that they can as individuals use the independent reporting line (IRL) form which is a tool for fire and rescue service staff to confidentially pass information to HMICFRS.
Sir Thomas Winsor wrote to all CFOs and stakeholders back in August this year to ask our views on a number of key issues, including the sector’s response during the pandemic, short-term and long-term changes in working due to the pandemic, where the fire sector should be in 2026 and the most pressing areas of reform.
As a key stakeholder we have responded to the consultation on behalf of our members and look forward to Sir Thomas’ annual assessment which will be his final assessment before he retires next year.
We have recently undertaken a large number of disciplinary cases on behalf of our members, the vast majority of which have been very positive and by positive we mean that without our involvement it is probable that these individuals would have been dismissed from the service.
Without exception, every single member who has the misfortune to experience the disciplinary process confirm that it is not something that they wish to experience again. Often, services have a habit of choosing to take the formal route as the first and preferred option rather than deal with matters informally where possible. Investigating Officers often are not trained to undertake a fair, balanced, and robust investigation, all to the detriment of the employee. Seemingly, gone are the days where long meritorious service meant something, with the slightest hiccup leading to heavy sanctions. Core Values are regularly featured within allegations of misconduct, now used as a stick to beat firefighters with rather than part of a culture throughout the entire organisation.
Thankfully the FRSA is there to act as a safety net should members find themselves falling foul of the disciplinary process, while we do not condone inappropriate behaviour, we are able to ensure a fair process which takes into account employment law, reasonableness and the fact that as human beings we are all subject to moments when we are not at our best or occasions that are unique and which we are unprepared for, leading to imperfect decision making.
Our view is that on the vast majority of occasions, there are opportunities for individuals to learn and develop rather than receive punitive measures. This is one of the approaches we take when representing our members and has proven successful. This area is the largest part of our work and often provides the greatest positive impact on our members. It cannot be stressed enough, the importance of contacting the FRSA at the earliest possible stage of the disciplinary process, so if you or a colleague finds themselves in this situation, please do not hesitate to contact your local official at the earliest opportunity.
We continue to have regular dialogue with the National Employers where we exchange views on a number of issues including the broadening of the firefighter role. Discussions are constructive and we look forward to continuing these talks in the months to come.
Also this week we met with the Scottish Fire Minister (Minister for Community Safety), Ash Denham MSP, for an introductory meeting. Again, the meeting was constructive with many areas of mutual agreement. It is clear that both the Scottish Government and the FRSA are very keen on moving the modernisation agenda forward in Scotland and we will do all we can to continue to make the case for reform which is crucial for the long-term sustainability of the service in Scotland.
The draft Scottish Fire Framework has been published this week for consultation and we look forward to providing our response to this key document.
The FRSA has a facilities agreement in every FRS where it has a recognition agreement with the local service/authority, this includes the use of a noticeboard on every fire station. If your station doesn’t have one and would be interested in having one, either contact your local FRSA official or FRSA HQ and we will be happy to provide one.
We still await the government’s White Paper which we had been assured would be published in the summer 2021. All stakeholders in the fire sector believe that the paper will include much needed reform, relating to governance models, operational independence for Chief Fire Officers, reform of the national pay structure and proposals on the broadening of the firefighter role.
Needless to say, future planning is somewhat hamstrung if the future of the fire service looks very different now to what it could look like in the next 12-24 months, so the uncertainty isn’t helpful to anyone. We assume that the recent government reshuffle, HGV driver shortage and COVID-19 have led to a delay in the White Paper being published rather than the government getting cold feet in pushing forward this much needed reform. We remain hopeful that there will be positive news on the White Paper in the coming weeks at which time we will publish a further update for members and what it could mean for them.
Represent the FRSA in your service
We are always willing to hear from members who are interested in joining our network of local officials that represent members within their own fire and rescue service. The contribution these officials make can literally be life-changing for members and is a very rewarding role which attracts payment for trade union duties. Training is provided by the Association and a mentoring arrangement is available, although the key attribute is your experience as an operational firefighter!
If you would like to know more, please contact FRSA HQ via 01953 455005 or [email protected].
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.