Scottish Government call for 'military assistance' as firefighters vote to strike
THE Scottish Government and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are set to call in the army after firefighters overwhelmingly voted to strike.
In a ballot of FBU members across the UK, 88 per cent backed industrial action after rejecting two deals worth 2 per cent and 5%.
The union said if employers did not make an improved offer in the next ten days they would announce "a series of strike dates."
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Though the budget for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service comes from the Scottish Government, the pay for firefighters is negotiated through UK-wide bargaining arrangements.
If they do take action, it will be the first nationwide walkout of firefighters and control staff since 2003.
General secretary Matt Wrack said: “Firefighters across the UK have spoken. The Fire Brigades Union has a decisive mandate for strike action.
“This is an overwhelming vote for strike action against an offer which would mean further significant cuts to real-terms wages for firefighters and control room staff.
“They have already lost at least 12% of the value of their pay since 2010.
“This is an absolute last resort for our members. The responsibility for any disruption to services lies squarely with fire service employers and government ministers."
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The Scottish Government's Community Safety Minister Elena Whitham said the vote was "disappointing."
She added: "At this point, we would encourage continued negotiations through the well-established collective bargaining arrangements.
“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service 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.”
SFRS Interim Deputy Chief Officer Stuart Stevens said he wholly supported "a pay increase for our firefighters."
He added: “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.”
He 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."
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Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur said: “Over recent years, firefighters have endured mounting pressures as they see funding slashed, resources wiped and staff levels plummet.
“This SNP/Green administration has left our emergency services high and dry, so it is little wonder that workers believe strike action is the only option left.
“Our fire and rescue service can only be pushed so far. The Scottish Government must get ahead of pay negotiations and resolve this dispute as swiftly as possible.”