Headlines: October 18th, 2002

Local government employers facing a demand for a big pay rise from firefighters have highlighted the economic impact which would result from similar claims being made across the public sector. The statement came ahead of today’s result of a ballot by the Fire Brigades Union on strike action in support of its 40 per cent claimAs the employers prepared to submit their evidence to Sir George Bain’s inquiry into the fire service, they said the demand by firefighters would cost taxpayers an extra 3.9 pence in the pound on the basic rate if it were to be replicated by all public employees.

The Local Government Association said it did not believe the public would accept such an increase particularly at a time when there was concern that extra government funding for public services should not be swallowed up by over-inflated wage demands by what the LGA called, “the most vocal unions in the sector.”

The evidence submitted to the Bain inquiry focuses on recommendations for the modernisation of the service. These include recognition of the changing role of the fire service and its employees with increased investment in fire prevention rather than just response to fires and other emergencies. The LGA says, “This requires cultural change where community protection is at the heart of the service not peripheral to firefighting,”

It adds, ” The employers want to introduce a range of collaborative working arrangements with local communities and agencies – social services, health, education, probation etcetera – to reduce risk to life.”

Other areas include changes to conditions of service and in approaches to risk management as well as steps to achieve greater fairness and diversity within the service.

The Fire Brigades Union leader Andy Gilchrist has blamed the dispute on  what he called “the government’s reckless and unhelpful intervention” in  their pay negotiations. He has claimed it is not a matter of trade union militancy but is about professional firefighters working 42 hours a week, risking their lives for the public while some of them still had to claim working families tax credits.