Scottish firefighters and control room staff vote to strike over pay

Members of the Fire Brigades Union backed walkouts by 88%.

Firefighters and control room staff in Scotland have voted overwhelmingly to walk out in the first industrial action over pay for two decades.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) backed strikes by 88% on a huge turnout of 73% after earlier rejecting a 5% pay offer last November.

The union said it was giving the UK Government and employers ten days to make an improved offer before deciding its next move.

The union said the vote on industrial action follows more than a decade of real-terms pay cuts.

The union’s Scottish secretary John McKenzie said: “The ballot result shows us how frustrated, angry and undervalued our members feel.

“Our members have suffered a £4,000 real-terms pay cut since 2010 under this Tory Government. That’s a 12% erosion of their pay over that 12, 13 years and it’s just not good enough.

“They’ve had enough.”

Mr McKenzie said that firefighters had been “really patient” while attempting to meet an agreement.

He added: “They received a 2% pay offer back in June last year and it took three months for that offer to be improved.

“We’ve been at this for the best part of seven or eight months.”

Mr McKenzie said no industrial action would take place until a meeting with employers was held on February 8.

“The implications on services are severe and they are severe for a reason. It takes three years to train a firefighter and our members have many years of experience.

“That can’t be replicated on a couple of weeks’ training. If we don’t receive an improved offer, they will be withdrawing their labour and the skills and experience of our members are impossible to replace,” he added.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) interim deputy chief officer Stuart Stevens has assured the public that any emergency where there is a risk to life or a clear sign of fire will be responded to during any strike action.

He said: “I wholly support a pay increase for our firefighters and absolutely recognise the right of firefighters to strike.

“The FBU represents many firefighters in Scotland and therefore any strike action will have an impact on our emergency response.

“As a fire and rescue service, we have a legal and moral duty to provide an emergency response to the communities of Scotland, including during periods of industrial action.

“I want to assure the public that we are developing contingency plans to enact during any strike and we will respond to any emergency where there is a risk to life or a clear sign of fire.”

Interim DCO Stevens added: “We know that the outcome of this ballot may cause concern or feelings of uncertainty.

“This is an unfolding situation which we are closely monitoring and will continue to engage with the FBU, National Joint Council, Scottish Government and other key stakeholders.

“We will know more about what this ballot means for us as a service in the coming weeks and we will keep the public and businesses up to date.

“We also have a wealth of key safety advice on our website to help you stay safe at home, outdoors and in the workplace.”

Elena Whitham, the Scottish Government’s community safety minister, said it was “disappointing” the FBU had voted for strike action.

She said: “At this point, we would encourage continued negotiations through the well-established collective bargaining arrangements.

“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) has comprehensive contingency plans for industrial action based on making the best use of the resources available to keep communities safe.

“In addition, we are working with SFRS to consider appropriate military assistance as part of its business continuity arrangements in the event that negotiations fail.”

More to follow…

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