FBU defiant over Chief Inspector’s union comments
The FBU has angrily hit back at claims its goals are contrary to the public interest.
The allegations were made by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services Sir Thomas Winsor in his annual report, published yesterday, in which he says: “I of course recognise the importance of strong trade union representation. The role of unions is to protect and improve members’ rights.
“In the fire sector, the unions have a proud history of doing so. However, the influence of the FBU is considerable in some services. I believe it goes too far and is sometimes contrary to the public interest. This is not acceptable: the FBU should not unduly dictate how fire services are provided.”
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack replied: “We utterly refute any suggestion that the FBU have ‘undue influence’ on our service. We are the democratically elected representatives of rank and file firefighters. They know best about their service and should have a strong voice in how it is run. Indeed, the chief inspector notes the importance of strong trade union representation.
“Operational fire service matters are intrinsically linked to the health and safety of firefighters and are therefore at the core of our work as a union. Our union has a proud one hundred year history of improving safety for both firefighters and the public, as well as leading monumental changes to fire safety regulations.
“In the years that the UK has not had any inspection or regulatory body for fire services, the FBU has been the only voice taking on many of the issues raised in this report. We have fought for the safety of the public, firefighters and control staff – and we will continue to do so.”
He continued: “This report is an utter condemnation of decades of failed government fire policy. Since the abolition of national standards in 2004, our fire and rescue service has been fragmented, without national coordination. This has left the public-facing a dangerous postcode lottery of public safety and the Chief Inspector is right to call out the ‘unjustifiable variation’ across the country. We need to re-establish national standards and a national body responsible for fire and rescue services which should include strong FBU representation.”
On non-statutory work
“The chief inspector is right to raise the level of non-statutory work being undertaken. Grenfell highlights that there needs to be much greater attention given to core functions prevention, protection, and intervention in relation to fires and other emergencies.
“It is, however, disgraceful that firefighters continue to have more work piled on them without any reciprocal increase in pay. Our real wages have fallen by more than £4,000 over the last decade. Fair pay for more work is not too much to ask.”
On building safety
“We have long highlighted the impact of austerity on firefighters’ crucial preventative and building safety work. The conclusion that some services are not doing enough of this work is deeply concerning and the chief inspector is right to point to the impact of huge cuts to the number of fire safety officers. If the government is serious about improving building safety, they will fully implement the recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry in every fire and rescue service in the UK and invest in hiring more firefighters and more fire safety officers.”
On equality and culture
“Diversity in the fire and rescue service needs to be seriously addressed. Since the government scrapped equality targets, there has been no means to hold chief officers to account for their failure to hire firefighters representative of the communities they serve. We have long campaigned for and promoted equalities issues in the fire service, but the total lack of recruitment over the last decade has prevented any serious progress in improving diversity.
“The bullying allegations in some services are incredibly worrying. Previous surveys commissioned by the FBU have identified that bullying largely emanates from the very top of fire and rescue services We urge anyone experiencing bullying, from management or otherwise, to raise it with their FBU representative.”
- Like this story? Please support our work here.