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FBU conference pay paper

pay scales

Campaign coordinators

FBU National Pay Campaign 2002

The following is the Statement which was passed by Annual Conference last year:

There has been, to date, only one National Strike in the UK Fire Service. It was a highly significant event in our Union’s history both politically and industrially. Of the many outcomes from this National Strike, the Fire Service Pay Formula is amongst the most significant.

The benefits of the formula are two-fold:

Firstly it is important to realise that “free collective bargaining” does not exist in the public sector. Successive Governments use public sector pay as an economic “regulator” in respect of controlling spending and thus influencing inflation and growth.
The existence of the pay formula means that we do not have to engage in a public battle over pay on an annual basis, which would have a negative effect on both membership morale and public support.

FBU pay poster

Secondly, the formula has ensured that FBU members have, for the most part, fared better financially than other local government manual workers and rises have been above the increase in the Retail Price Index for all but two years since 1979.

Though the formula has somewhat lagged behind the rise in average earnings it has generally produced better increases in pay than collective bargaining in other sectors certainly up to 1996.

The formula is distinct from other pay systems in that:

  • We are linked to a specific LEVEL of earnings rather than the annual movement in earnings.
  • The formula applies to members’ earnings rather than basic pay.

We take the figure in April, which reflects the growth in earnings of the upper quartile of male manual workers over the preceding 12 months. This is updated by using the average earnings figure in the whole economy for August and the upper quartile is then projected to November. New pay rates are set in November. The increase is therefore based on movements in earnings, which took place up to 19 months earlier.

In a sense our annual increase is almost “retrospective”.

Our relatively “small” increases in recent years are the result of the low growth in male manual earnings, which causes the male manual upper quartile figure to lag behind the average earnings index.

The fact that the formula links the change in the quartile to FBU members’ earnings rather than basic pay has also had a somewhat “negative” impact on FBU members’ pay. It is important to understand that individual elements of the formula can have a detrimental effect on the calculation if they have moved significantly in either direction.

Historically the formula has served us well. There is however a growing feeling among members that the increasingly skilled nature of both firefighters and emergency fire control operators’ jobs coupled with an increasing workload and decreasing levels of staff should be reflected in their pay packets.

The Parliamentary under Secretary of State for the Fire Service, Mike O’Brien, has set out his vision for a modern day Fire Service. The FBU shares his commitment to prevention through education and to maintaining ever-higher standards of service.

Such significant changes will only be achieved by a highly skilled, trained and motivated workforce. One such significant change is the transition towards Community Fire Safety, which increasingly requires new and additional skills of our membership. It is therefore fair to expect that these major changes be rewarded in respect of improved pay.

Obviously in seeking to negotiate improvements in pay, we must also be aware that success may be a protracted and complex process. If we pursue changing the formula our Employers will certainly insist on something in return.
Whatever the comparator, it is unlikely that it can guarantee sizeable year on year improvements. Nor should we see pay in isolation from other conditions of employment and working practices or FBU policies e.g. the pre-arranged overtime ban which has created jobs in the Service.

However this does not mean we should not have the debate – but it must be a mature debate.
The Fire Brigades Union is one of the very few Unions to have come out of the last 20 years with a national agreement on terms and conditions and also pay, intact. This is quite an achievement. If members vote for change then they must be quite clear about the consequences of this choice.

We must understand that this means making a commitment to seeing the thing through and making tough choices.
On this basis the Executive Council recommends to Conference that, in light of recent innovations and policy developments in the UK Fire Service the Executive Council be tasked with investigating and reporting on:

1. The change in the Firefighter and Control Staff roles.
2. The clear potential for further change in these roles.
3. The need to better reflect in a future pay formula these changes in respect of overall terms and conditions, in relation to appropriate comparators.

The Executive Council further recommends that this report will be made no later than Annual Conference 2002.

The Executive Council gives a commitment that should the conclusion of this work require action or decision before the Annual Conference of 2002, then a Recall Conference will be convened.

© Fire Brigades Union. Published by Fire Brigades Union,
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