Firefighters to be consulted on strike action over ‘devastating’ cuts

Fire Brigades Union members branded proposed service cuts 'a threat to the safety of everyone in Scotland'.

Fire Brigades Union Scotland: Firefighters to be consulted on strike action over ‘devastating’ cuts iStock

The firefighters’ union is to consult members in Scotland on strike action over “devastating” cuts to its service.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it is taking its “first step” towards nationwide strike action as chiefs branded cuts by the Scottish Government a “threat to the lives, homes and livelihoods of everyone in Scotland.”

It comes after union leader John McKenzie warned the service faces ‘a deep and long-lasting crisis’ if cuts are implemented.

Service bosses said a projected five-year flat cash budget until 2027 has removed ten wholetime fire engines, while 150 retained fire engines are regularly unavailable due to significant recruitment and retention issues.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue service has announced that its own projections mean it will need to save a minimum of a further £14m next year, which would result in the loss of a further 339 firefighters and 18 fire engines, with more to come.

Figures estimate Scotland has lost 1,200 frontline firefighters since 2012.   

The move to consult members was agreed unanimously by the union’s Scottish committee this week. A formal strike ballot could follow. 

The FBU will also be holding a demonstration at Holyrood on October 26.

Members of the Fire Brigade Union protesting outside Holyrood over pay in October 2022STV News

John McKenzie, FBU regional secretary, said:  “The cuts we are seeing imposed by the Scottish government are a threat to the lives, homes and livelihoods not just of firefighters but of everyone in Scotland. They will rob Scotland of the firefighters and equipment we need to keep our communities safe.  

“Speaking to firefighters across Scotland, it is clear to us that there is a determined mood among members. After ten years of cuts, our service cannot take any more.”

“The public will not forgive the SNP Government if they allow this to end in strike action.”

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “As the SNP gather for their party conference, firefighters have a message for the Scottish government. 

“These cuts are a threat to the safety of everyone in Scotland, and the FBU has a duty to oppose them.

“Firefighters do not move towards strike action lightly. The intransigence of the Scottish government has led things to where they are now, but it still has time to reverse course. The Scottish government needs to listen to those in the front line of this vital service.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Firefighters play a vital role in protecting our communities and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has continued to deliver the high standard of services required to keep Scotland safe. That is why, despite difficult financial circumstances due to UK Government austerity, we are providing SFRS with more than £368m this year, an increase of £14.4m on 2022-23.

“While recruitment and retention of firefighters is an operational matter for SFRS, we are maintaining front-line services, with a higher number of firefighters in Scotland than other parts of the UK.

“Strikes are in no one’s interests and Ministers will continue engaging with the FBU to discuss their concerns.”

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