Firefighters accept revised pay deal to avert strikes

Firefighters accept revised pay deal to avert strikes

Firefighters have voted to accept a pay deal aimed at averting strike action, with a union leader hailing the settlement as a “testament to the power of collective action”.

An improved offer was made in February to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) of a 7% pay rise backdated to last July and a further 5% from July this year.

The union’s executive decided to recommend that members vote to accept the offer in a ballot which opened on February 20 and closed on Monday.

Some 96% of FBU members voted to accept the deal on an 84% turnout.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack praised the process of collective bargaining through which the settlement was agreed as a better alternative to pay review bodies.

He expressed solidarity with striking workers from other sectors, arguing that the pay review body process would have made industrial action “inevitable” for firefighters and telling the Government to “wake up to that fact”.

Reacting to the news, he said: “The overwhelming vote by FBU members to accept the improved offer means that the dispute is resolved on terms that are favourable to firefighters.

“We pay tribute to members of our union for their determination and unity throughout the past year. Firefighters will now receive two pay increases, including nine months of back pay.

“This result is testament to the power of collective action. Without the huge mandate for strike action by firefighters last month, this deal would never have been achieved.

“We moved our employers from 2% in June last year, to 5% in November, and now to 7% plus 5% with an agreement to immediate talks on other areas where we have concerns over pay.

“The crucial mechanism for achieving this outcome was direct negotiations with Fire and Rescue Service employers. With collective bargaining, we were able to make our case and avoid industrial action.

“This would not have been possible with a so-called ‘independent’ pay review body. Under a pay review body strike action would have been inevitable and the Government needs to wake up to that fact.

TUC Conference 2017
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, praised the ‘power of collective action’ (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“The FBU leadership has been determined not to sugar-coat the offer. For the current year, 7% is still another real terms pay cut. For the following year (July 2023 to July 2024), when inflation is forecast to be lower, 5% may amount to a slight increase in real terms pay.”

Mr Wrack added: “At a time when the UK Government is presiding over attacks on the wages of key workers in the NHS, teaching, rail and postal services, strikes are the first line of defence against those attacks on workers.

“The FBU stands in solidarity with each and every union on strike for decent pay.

“We will now step up our resistance against the outrageous and authoritarian law that the Tories have rushed through Parliament to restrict the rights of working people to take strike action in defence of wages and jobs.”