The pinnacle of the Hearth Brigades Union has vowed to withstand authorities efforts to vary the way in which firefighters negotiate pay offers after successful a pay rise for members that appears set to avert strike motion.
With Britain locked in rounds of rolling industrial motion by principally public-sector unions preventing real-terms pay cuts, the FBU is without doubt one of the few unions the place the management has accepted a pay provide.
Firefighters final month referred to as off their deliberate strike after employers lifted their provide from an preliminary 2 per cent to a 7 per cent rise. Members are anticipated to just accept the deal after the poll on the deal closes on March 6.
Matt Wrack informed the Monetary Occasions that one cause the union had been in a position to safe first rate phrases for its members was that the firefighters’ wages have been negotiated by way of a proper means of collective bargaining. This implies unions and employers sit down collectively to achieve a settlement that might cowl working practices or different phrases and circumstances in addition to pay.
Collective bargaining preparations haven’t but proved a panacea to troublesome disputes within the rail and postal sectors. Nonetheless, placing NHS and college workers — at present locked in among the most intractable disputes with authorities — have a distinct system. Their pay is about by ministers, after suggestions from impartial “pay evaluate our bodies” which give recommendation after gathering proof from all stakeholders.
Well being unions are boycotting the NHS pay evaluate physique this 12 months, accusing ministers of utilizing it as cowl for choices which might be in actuality dictated by their departments’ view on affordability.
The federal government has now conceded the necessity to negotiate pay. This week it invited the NHS workers council, which incorporates all well being unions, to hitch intensive talks, after opening them with the Royal School of Nursing final week.
However in a white paper final 12 months the federal government proposed a sequence of reforms, together with an overhaul of how firefighters negotiate their pay — with ministers eager to push the emergency service into pay evaluate our bodies.
The white paper stated the “sluggish” collective bargaining mechanism had stopped hearth service leaders deploying workers swiftly to assist communities firstly of the Covid-19 pandemic — when ministers needed firefighters to hitch test-and-trace and vaccination programmes.
A report printed in January by the chief inspector of fireplace and rescue companies stated the specter of strike motion might “tangibly” have an effect on the response to incidents and was one cause for “pressing reform” of the pay-setting course of.
Wrack referred to as the proposals “an assault on employees’ rights”, saying the union would “combat” them. “By subsequent week I believe we can have . . . in all probability averted a strike, whereas all these sectors, larger than ours, with pay evaluate our bodies are successfully locked into strikes,” he stated.
“Our provide has demonstrated that you are able to do one thing totally different to repeating what the pay evaluate our bodies stated final 12 months.”
The federal government will challenge a response to its personal session on reforms for firefighters within the spring, having delayed the doc from the autumn.
Wrack stated he had emphasised to ministers the very fact that there have been no strikes taking place by firefighters due to the way in which pay negotiations have been carried out.
“I hope they may rethink now, as a result of we’ll keep away from a strike by way of collective bargaining,” Wrack stated.
Wrack additionally stated the federal government’s plans for “minimal service agreements” in key public companies have been misguided.
“We don’t see how one can set minimal service ranges within the hearth and rescue service as a result of successfully every thing we already do is at minimal service stage now . . . for us it might imply signing as much as unsafe work practices,” he stated.
The FBU chief additionally chastised Labour chief Sir Keir Starmer for failing to stay up for placing employees. “I believe we as a union would want that Labour would extra clearly decide to supporting employees taking that motion,” he stated. “It gives the look that Labour is sitting on the fence.”
However Wrack stated that the FBU, which disaffiliated from Labour in 2004 however rejoined in 2015, had no plans to separate once more from Britain’s principal opposition social gathering.
“No matter disagreements we could or could not have with Keir Starmer, we’re in a a lot stronger place to try this if we’re affiliated,” he stated. “When you’re not affiliated, you gained’t be within the room.”
He stated Labour would come underneath strain in the direction of the final election to drop its plans to hold out pro-union insurance policies reminiscent of reversing current Tory anti-union laws. “The strain will likely be on them to not be ‘beholden to the unions’ . . . We are going to demand they completely should honour that dedication.”