TheÂ Fire Brigades Union has pledged to oppose the threat by Her Majestyâ€™s Chief Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services Sir Thomas P. Winsor Â to ban the right to strike by firefighters in his annual report into state of fire and rescue servicesÂ included an attack on firefightersâ€™. Windsor is proposing the right rightÂ to democratically organise, including a recommendation to consider removing firefightersâ€™ right to strike.
Her Majestyâ€™s Chief Inspector of Fire and Rescue Services Sir Thomas P Winsor, author of ‘State of Fire and Rescue â€“ The Annual Assessment of Fire and Rescue Services in England 2021′, wrote: â€śIt is unarguable that firefighters deserve fair pay; everyone does. But the continued threat of industrial action doesnâ€™t help anyone, least of all the public. Many services have told us that the threat can significantly adversely affect their ability to respond to incidents and that it is costly for them to provide contingency arrangements, particularly when, in some cases, resources are already scarce.
â€śWe were also told that many firefighters are often conflicted in their choices; dissenting from union positions takes courage. The influence of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is considerable in some services. Sometimes, it goes too far and is contrary to servicesâ€™ values and behaviours, and to the public interest.
â€śThe threat of industrial action isnâ€™t the only thing that is hindering progress. The outdated and ineffective structures for negotiating pay, terms and conditions are where reform is most needed. A significant number of periods of industrial action have taken place since 2001; two were national strikes. These were largely as a result of failed negotiations on pay and terms and conditions.
â€śToo often, the public havenâ€™t been served as they should because of the restrictive industrial relations arrangements in place.â€ť
In response, Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack pointed out that since 2010,Â one in every five firefighters has been cut from the service, saying: â€śIt is not clear how removing firefighterâ€™s rights to democratically organise would help keep the public saferâ€“ in fact, having a fair structure where employers and employees can come together to work through issues, helps protect public safety. If Sir Tom Winsor was serious about improving the fire and rescue service he might suggest putting back some of the one in every five firefighters which have been cut since 2010.
â€śThe criticism of the pace of change in the fire and rescue service lies at the door of central government. For more than a decade, the FBU has attempted to discuss what is expected of the service. The response has been endless evasion by government ministers. To blame firefighters and their union is an outrage and to suggest further undemocratic attacks on the rights of firefighters as workers is disgraceful.
â€śSupport for collective bargaining is shared across the fire and rescue service, and to suggest otherwise is at best disingenuous, and at worst a lie, making his recommendations untenable and unsupported by evidence. The conclusions reached on the role of the union are simply Winsorâ€™s own opinions. He has a track record, across sectors, of attacking workers and the role of unions in line with what we can presume to be his own political beliefs.
â€śBy stating views that even fire and rescue employers do not share, Tom Winsor is demonstrating his lack of understanding of the fire and rescue service. Sadly, the work of the Her Majestyâ€™s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services is hampered by this lack of understanding and we are pleased this will be his last report.â€ť