The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has announced that nearly 33,500 members will be balloted on industrial action after the union’s demands for an increased pay offer were rejected by employers.
The FBU revealed today that notice of a ballot has been sent to fire and rescue service employers. The union told employers last week that it would issue notice if its members were not offered a “substantial pay increase” by Monday 28th.
The strike ballot is set to run from December 5th to January 30th, and the union said nearly 33,500 members would be involved in the vote. General secretary Matt Wrack described the ballot as “historic” for firefighters and control staff, stressing that members “are rarely driven to these lengths”.
The union leader said: “After years of derisory pay increases and a pay offer that is well below inflation, firefighters’ and control staff’s living standards are in peril. We have firefighters using food banks – we know that because FBU officials have had to sign off on members going to them.
“Firefighters and control staff worked throughout the pandemic, and firefighters took on extra duties including moving the deceased. They have now been given a below-inflation pay offer. It is utterly disgraceful to call people “key workers” and then treat them like this.
“Strike action is always a last resort, but we are left with no other option. We asked for a pay increase that takes into account the cost-of-living crisis and did not receive it. The ball is still in the employers’ and government’s court. We urge them to provide a decent pay offer and help bring this dispute to an end.”
The FBU said firefighters and control staff have been offered a 5% pay increase, which was rejected by members in a consultative ballot in November, with 79% voting against on a turnout of 78%. The current rate of inflation is 11.1%.
The firefighters’ union has repeatedly criticised government cuts to the fire service. In March last year, the union revealed that government funding for fire and rescue services in England had been cut by £139.7m since 2016-17, 13.8% in cash terms over the five-year period.
Wrack stressed at the time that the “devastating cuts” would “worsen public safety, firefighter safety, and the damage wreaked on homes, businesses, and the environment by fires, floods and other emergencies” and said they showed “this government’s contempt for a vital service”.
Following the wildfires that broke out across the country during the heatwave over the summer, Wrack accused government ministers and chief fire officers of “criminal complacency” over their failure to respond to warnings about the threat of the climate emergency.
He said: “Firefighters are at the forefront of the climate emergency. The demands of the job are increasing, but our resources have been under attack by government cuts for over a decade. 11,500 firefighter jobs have been slashed since 2010.”
“There is a growing anger at the way firefighters have been treated for more than a decade and at the way our service is being dismantled in front of our eyes,” the union leader added.