BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Friday, 25 October, 2002, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
Head to head: Fire strike
Andy Gilchrist, left, and Nick Raynsford
Andy Gilchrist, left, and Nick Raynsford
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to start striking from next week unless a 40% pay claim is met. Prime Minister Tony Blair has condemned firefighters' plans as "wrong and dangerous".

FBU general secretary Andy Gilchrist and fire service minister Nick Raynsford outline their arguments on the dispute.


Nick Raynsford, fire service minister

Our firefighters do a magnificent job and the government agrees they deserve a fair reward for their professionalism and bravery.

It was to achieve exactly this, after the breakdown of talks between their union and their council employers, that we set up an independent review to examine firefighters' pay and conditions now and in the future.

The review is chaired by Professor George Bain, who is respected on all sides, aided by senior representatives appointed by the TUC and employers. It is already making good progress and will report in mid-December.


Rather than wait to see what the review recommends, it has called 36 days of national strikes with the consequent risk to property and human life

Nick Raynsford

Such an inquiry is the goal of many disputes. This time the review began its investigation long before the strike start date.

But the Fire Brigade Union has totally refused to co-operate with the review. Alone of all the relevant bodies, it has refused to give evidence.

Instead it has demanded an immediate, no-strings-attached 40% rise for all firefighters, a 50% rise for control room staff and a new formula for pay in the future.

And rather than wait to see what the review recommends, it has called 36 days of national strikes with the consequent risk to property and human life.

No government can give an unconditional 40% rise to any group, no matter how well-regarded they are. I believe firefighters know that as well as everyone else.

So I hope even now they will, at the least, delay their strike and co-operate with the review to see if firefighters can get fair reward for their skills and dedication without the public being put at risk.


Andy Gilchrist, FBU general secretary

Much is made of the fact that our claim is for a 40% increase. This needs to be put in context. We have not raised the issue of reviewing our pay for 25 years.

A fully qualified firefighter is paid around 100 per week less than average male earnings.

They earn 21,000 after five years, 24,000 for a leading firefighter after 15 years.


All we ask is respect for what we do and a fair wage for firefighters and emergency fire control operators

Andy Gilchrist

We have independent evidence not only to support our claim, but also how it will be self funding in the long term.

Our productivity is very good - the Audit Commission, the government's own watchdog, has acknowledged this. In England and Wales between 1981 and 1999 there was a 78% increase in calls and 2.5 % fewer firefighters in post.

Firefighting is not simply putting out fires - a modern fire service is now a multi-skilled service.

This pattern is the same in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

It is most unhelpful that our employers have stated publicly that "many situations faced by firefighters are hazardous, but the risk of death and injury is lower than for some other hazardous occupations, for example construction, trawler fishing and agriculture".

Every death of every worker is a tragedy. The point is surely that firefighters put their lives on the line routinely in the line of duty and voluntarily.

In addition, firefighters are now routinely attacked when attending incidents in some of our inner cities.

All we ask is respect for what we do and a fair wage for firefighters and emergency fire control operators.

The employers say that they want "modernisation". So does the FBU. We want more investment, better equipment and improved training in the service.

We are not simply worth a pay rise because of the dangerous element of our job, but because of the effort we put in daily through fire prevention work to make the public buildings and the public transport which we all use, as well as our home, safe.

We have spent the last five months trying to negotiate a decent wage for the people who protect our lives and property.


Key stories

Features and analysis

How they compare

In pictures

CLICKABLE GUIDE

AUDIO VIDEO
 VOTE RESULTS
Do you back the firefighters' strike?

Yes
 4.07% 

No
 95.93% 

64332 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

25 Oct 02 | Politics
19 Oct 02 | UK
Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes