Northumberland firefighters could strike as union holds ballot

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Firefighters and control staff in Northumberland are set to consider strike action following a pay offer well below the rate of inflation.

The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) has taken the decision to ballot members for strike action after they were offered a 2% annual pay rise.

Mark Downthwaite, Northumberland branch secretary of the FBU, said: “We were given that 2% pay offer back in June when inflation was 7%. That’s now increased to 10.1% in July and that follows 12 years of pay restraints. The current offer represents a significant real-terms pay cut.”

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He also highlighted implications for rural Northumberland where many stations have retained crew.

Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.
Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.

“There are widespread and increasing difficulties in relation to the recruitment and retention of RDS (on-call) firefighters,” he said.

"This has created, among other things, increasing problems regarding the availability of appliances crewed by those working retained duties in many fire and rescue services.

"This matter should be addressed by the employers proposing significant improvements in the pay and rewards package for such firefighters, which should include a substantial increase in the annual retaining fee.”

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The ballot for strike action follows consultation in FBU branches and a meeting of the union’s executive council on September 2. The aim is for the ballot to be held in four weeks’ time. Any strike would have to be at least two weeks after voting finishes, so late October at the earliest.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: “Taking strike action is always a last resort. But our employers are increasingly leaving us with no choice. And there is huge anger among firefighters at falling pay.

“Firefighters must be paid fairly: there is absolutely no question when it comes to this. It is the responsibility of fire service employers to provide decent pay offers and that has not happened.

“The ball is now in the fire service employers’ court. It is not too late for them to make a much better pay offer for consideration by our members.”

Firefighters went on strike over pensions almost a decade ago and there was a lengthy strike over pay almost 20 years ago.

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