Firefighter union accepts new pay offer and ends prospect of strikes

File photo dated 21/07/22 of new London Fire Brigade recruits go through their paces during a drill at a Fire station in East London. More than 33,000 firefighters and control room staff start voting on Monday on whether to strike over pay. Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) are being asked if they want to take industrial action over a "derisory" 5% pay rise, The ballot closes on January 30. Issue date: Monday December 5, 2022.
Firefighters have accepted a pay deal (file photo). Credit: PA

Firefighters have accepted a pay offer aimed at averting strike action, with a union leader hailing the deal as a “testament to the power of collective action.”

A revised offer was made in February to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), consisting of a 7% pay rise backdated to last July and a further 5% from July this year.

The union’s executive decided to recommend that members vote to accept the offer in a ballot which opened on February 20 and closed on Monday.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said an “overwhelming” majority of members had backed the settlement.

He praised the process of collective bargaining through which the settlement figure was reached as a better alternative to pay review bodies.

Reacting to the news, he said: “The overwhelming vote by FBU members to accept the improved offer means that the dispute is resolved on terms that are favourable to firefighters.

“We pay tribute to members of our union for their determination and unity throughout the past year. Firefighters will now receive two pay increases, including nine months of back pay.

“This result is testament to the power of collective action. Without the huge mandate for strike action by firefighters last month, this deal would never have been achieved.

“We moved our employers from 2% in June last year, to 5% in November, and now to 7% plus 5% with an agreement to immediate talks on other areas where have concerns over pay.

“The crucial mechanism for achieving this outcome was direct negotiations with Fire and Rescue Service employers. With collective bargaining, we were able to make our case and avoid industrial action.

“This would not have been possible with so-called “independent” Pay Review Body. Under a pay review body strike action would have been inevitable and the government needs to wake up to that fact.

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“The FBU leadership has been determined not to sugar-coat the offer. For the current year, 7% is still another real terms pay cut. For the following year (July 2023 to July 2024), when inflation is forecast to be lower, 5% may amount to a slight increase in real terms pay.”

Mr Wrack added: “It’s clear from this dispute that the organised power of trade unions, including being prepared to take strike action when necessary, can protect the pay and conditions of workers.

“At a time when the UK Government is presiding over attacks on the wages of key workers in the NHS, teaching, rail and postal services, strikes are the first line of defence against those attacks on workers.

“The FBU stands in solidarity with each and every union on strike for decent pay.

“We will now step up our resistance against the outrageous and authoritarian law that the Tories have rushed through Parliament to restrict the rights of working people to take strike action in defence of wages and jobs.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier on Monday he said: “It’s a step forward but it would not be the end of our campaigning on pay.

“We think there is significant under-investment in the fire service and that needs to be addressed.”