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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 13:17 GMT
Do European firefighters earn more?
Firefighters in the Mont Blanc tunnel
Some EU firefighters get weekend and overtime pay
As negotiations over pay between the Fire Brigades Union and the government continue, BBC News Online looks at the pay and benefits of firefighters in Europe.

With the Army's 'Green Goddesses' on stand by, this week could be a landmark for firefighters' pay or the beginning of a series of strikes.

Initial industrial action was called off following "constructive talks" between the FBU and the government.

As negotiations continue with employers, the union is pressing its case that fair pay means raising a fully qualified firefighter's basic wage from 21,500 to 30,000.

In comparison, the pay and conditions of firefighters elsewhere in the European Union show large variations.

And starting salaries appear to suggest UK firefighters are not as badly off as some.

The bottom line is what it costs to live in this country, especially in London

Ross Neal
Even fire fighting Danes, who earn 1,327 per month, cannot match the basic pay of new recruits in the UK.

Irish firefighters do less well, earning little more than 1,000 a month when they join up.

Likewise, newly recruited French firefighters fare not much better, taking home after tax just 730 per month.

In comparison, a UK trainee in the fire service earns 1,411 before tax.

Weekend allowances

But the sums look different when taking into account payment for overtime, which is standard in other European fire services.

In Denmark, overtime is paid at double the average rate. And the wages of Irish firefighters are inflated by night and weekend allowances.

In the UK allowances and overtime pay do not exist.

The armed forces are poised to take over
The armed forces are poised to take over
And only a few UK firefighters receive the added benefit of subsidised accommodation.

After five years fire service, the comparisons begin to look much less favourable.

The 21,531 earned by British firefighters - who are fully qualified only after four years - is overtaken by the Danes.

They earn on 24,171 on average while their Irish counterparts can get added benefits to put them on an average salary of 26,500.

Figures 'irrelevant'

Despite this, according to figures provided by the FBU, German firefighters languish on an average salary of 16,500 after five years, with Belgian firefighters on 17,800.

But those figures still do not reflect the allowances and overtime pay.

Average firefighter earnings after five years (not including overtime)
Ireland - 26,518
Denmark - 24,171
Norway - 22,946
UK - 21,531
Belgium - 17,821
Germany - 16,401
In response to the figures Ross Neal, chair of the London region for the Fire Brigades Union, was adamant their negotiating position remained sound.

"I don't think it [our demand] requires justification," he said.

"The bottom line is what it costs to live in this country, especially in London."

Mr Neal cast aside any comparison to salaries in other EU member states.

"It doesn't matter what firemen in Europe get paid and what allowances they have.

"We need a single rate of pay. And I don't think our demand is a king's ransom in this day and age," he added.

"Firefighters need to live and work without worrying about bills. And they're finding it hard to make ends meet."


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25 Oct 02 | Politics
28 Oct 02 | N Ireland
27 Oct 02 | UK
25 Oct 02 | UK
24 Oct 02 | Scotland
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