FRSA National Update
21 March 2023
Position Statement on Pay Award
The revised pay award from the National Employers of 7% for the year 2022/23 and 5% for the year 2023/24 has been accepted by the Employee side (FBU) of the National Joint Council (NJC).
Our response to this development is positive. Firefighters’ pay has fallen in real terms over the years and needs to be increased. This award increases pay and averts damaging strike action which can put lives at risk and is divisive.
However, there is a very long string attached to this offer. The pay increase is unfunded, in that, there is no new money available from central government, other than in Scotland where the Scottish government has agreed to fund the increase. Several fire and rescue authorities have indicated that they are already struggling to meet their existing commitments. Therefore, there are only two ways of generating the funds needed to fund the pay award – firstly an increase in local tax (precept) which is capped at £5 per annum and unlikely to cover the entire increase or secondly make cuts to local services, leading to job losses and station closures.
This situation was foreseeable and the very reason why the FRSA has been championing the need for reform within the fire and rescue service to broaden the role and open additional funding streams to pay for an uplift in pay. It is clear that central government will not provide any additional funds without change to the firefighter role and the service they provide to the public.
The settlement includes an offer by the employers to create ‘working groups’ to discuss such topics as the retained duty system, pay progression, new roles and CPD. Those who are newer to the service will see this as a progressive step but the more experienced of us know that we we’ve heard it all before. The subject of broadening of the role was discussed by the NJC as far back as 2015 and we are still no further forward in moving away from the current national role maps. We are not currently expecting to see significant progress on these issues over the coming months.
These are familiar tactics. When an external body (in this case the government) proposes to implement change, the internal body makes noises to suggest such change is already underway and that there is no need for outside interference. It’s a delaying ploy.
We also must not forget that the starting point from which these pay negotiations commenced, was already low, particularly for On-Call staff, which demonstrates a failing on the part of the NJC to maintain a healthy and competitive salary structure. After two decades of failure why are we to believe that now things will be different?
The structure of the pay uplift means that all grey book staff will receive the same percentage increase, leading to the gap between the higher earners and the low paid increasing even further. We would have preferred a pay structure that provided a greater percentage increase to the low paid which decreased the higher the salary, similar to that provided to the police.
The current national structure provides a situation whereby salaries are reviewed yearly, which is not evidence-led, merely an agreement between two sides behind closed doors. We believe firefighters deserve better than this. There needs to be a medium-to-long term strategy based on a business case that is funded over a 3–5-year period to allow for stability and forward planning.
In the meantime, we will keep a focus on how services intend to pay for the uplift and identify where cuts are being used as a method to generate the addition funds to pay for the rise.
We will provide further updates to members as more information becomes available but, in the meantime, the FRSA will continue to make representations at all government levels for a pay deal that doesn’t lead to cuts to frontline services.
You can also catchup on our podcast, Priority Message, which talked about the pay offer and implications of an unfunded uplift in pay.
Chief Executive Officer
Listen to our Podcast
Last month we launched our own podcast, ‘Priority Message’. The podcast compliments the videos available on our YouTube channel which already contains a number of informative videos covering a variety of subjects. More videos and podcasts will became available over the coming year so please do subscribe to both the podcast and YouTube channel.
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.