Region 3 Fire Brigades Union

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Welcome to Region 3.

Firefit Validation Tests

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TO:             ALL MEMBERS

Dear Brother/Sister

Firefit validation tests – FBU members encouraged to participate

The FBU has been focussing on fitness standards as part of our challenge to show that the government’s arguments that firefighters can maintain operational fitness until age 60 are flawed.

Part of the evidence we previously submitted in our pension campaign related to the ongoing work of Firefit. In addition to this we have been discussing the recommended safe fitness standards that were outlined in the latest report ‘occupational fitness standards for operational UK fire and rescue personnel’ by Dr James Bilzon.

The standards identified in this report relate to the demands placed on operational firefighters during a series of tasks undertaken by volunteers in earlier trials. These tests were based upon essential tasks which are carried out by operational firefighters on a regular basis. The tests were undertaken at an agreed pace where participants wore firefighting kit and gas analysis testing masks. The tests confirmed that the safe recommended fitness standard for firefighting roles was 42.3VO2 and that below this standard a firefighter could not be guaranteed to be able to safely and effectively perform the essential part of their role.

However, it is important to note that there will be individuals who can meet the same standards of activity without this level of VO2. This is due to variations in human physiology. It is also important to note that the standard arises from the work-related tests and not vice versa. The key issue is the ability to perform work related tests.

This report and subsequent presentation from Dr Bilzon has proved very helpful and has helped us in our discussions designed to achieve an occupational fitness standard for all UK firefighters.

This is being opposed currently by the national fire service employers who want each FRS to be able to decide its own fitness standards. This position is being opposed by the FBU and we are attempting to build a strong case to show the only logical way to deal with firefighter fitness is to have an occupational fitness standard. The union has argued that there is no logic

The FBU position on a professional safe standard for all UK firefighters was debated at our recent Conference and agreed:

              1. On the need for an occupational fitness standard for all firefighters in the UK
              1. That this standard should be based around the recommended fitness standard of 42.3 VO2 for all firefighting roles.
            1. To immediately explore the extent of employers’ duty of care responsibilities in relation to this and challenge as appropriate.
          1. That ‘during career’ tests and standards must be objectively and clearly linked to the requirements of the job.
        1. To explore the issue of differing fitness levels for firefighting roles and other roles in more detail and agree a position in the future.
      1. To support the request from Firefit to involve members in the selected brigades.
    1. To communicate this position to members.

    8.  For FBU officials to formally meet with the Firefit Chair to discuss their work in more detail.

    9.  To ensure that all ongoing work is closely monitored and any decision is revisited if necessary in the future.

Work is progressing on all these areas and officials have already met with the Firefit Chair, Justin Johnston.

Firefit has now designed a during-career test that has been designed to be linked to the requirements of the role. The union has suggested some amendments to an earlier assessment programme which incorporates this during-career test and we will be discussing this further.

Firefit now intends to run a series of validation tests for this during-career assessment in the following brigades:

  • GMC
  • Merseyside
  • Buckinghamshire
  • Leicestershire
  • West Yorkshire

We have discussed these with the Firefit Chair and in line with the Conference decision we have agreed to write to members in those Brigades, encouraging them to volunteer to participate.

We have also been invited to observe these tests and in at least one brigade have been informed that brigade officials will be participating. We are encouraging members to participate because we would like these tests to involve a wide range of firefighters, taking account of age and gender. It is important to note that the FBU has not signed up to anything in relation to fitness and is continuing to monitor the situation as a whole. These are discussions which are still under way. Further reports will follow.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally,

                       

MATT WRACK

General Secretary

 

Durham Miners Gala - Invite to members

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Last Updated on Friday, 26 June 2015 12:38
 

Pensions - The campaigning continues

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TO:      ALL MEMBERS

Dear Brother/Sister

Pensions Campaigning continues; discussions sought with the new DCLG fire minister

In May the FBUAnnual Conference endorsed the position that the FBU campaign against the pension attack must continue. There is no doubt that the general election result was a huge setback in relation to the potential discussions that had been lined up should Labour have formed the new government. This meant that the situation had to be reassessed to take account of this.

New Fire Minister

The union has made contact with the new DCLG Fire Minister, Mark Francois, requesting an urgent meeting. These arrangements are now being made. We hope that this discussion will enable us to set out the union’s concerns – particularly the fact that key areas were unresolved under the last Westminster government. Members will receive a report following this meeting.

In addition to this we are continuing to press issues around the no job no pension guarantee that was set out by the previous DCLG Fire Minister in December 2014.Work also continues to raise our concerns in the National Joint Council (NJC) Joint Working Party looking at fitness issues relating to the firefighter role. Annual Conference made some very important decisions in relation to occupational fitness standards and the union is now following up on this work. This will include further detailed discussions with Firefit regarding the fitness requirements for essential elements of the firefighter’s role.   This work unsurprisingly supports many of the concerns raised by the FBU (as did the government’s own 'Williams' review). We will continue to gather evidence to support our concerns that the imposed NPA makes the scheme unworkable.

Scheme governance problems

The Public Service Pension Act 2014 (and related legislation) includes a requirement to set up local pension boards and a national Scheme Advisory Board in all parts of the UK. This legislation was quite clear in relation to when these boards should be established, how they should function and how they should be made up.

In the majority of cases we believe the legislation has not been applied correctly.

We have been raising significant concerns with the way that these boards are being established. These concerns include:

  • How employee representatives to these boards are being appointed.
  • The delay in setting up the boards.
  • Training for board members.

In Northern Ireland and Scotland our discussions around the boards have been quite productive and many of our concerns have been addressed. These discussions are continuing. Elsewhere our concerns have not been addressed. This further threatens to undermine confidence in the pension scheme at a time when many scheme members are already outraged at earlier attacks on pension rights.

In some cases significant decisions have been made although the local boards have not yet been established (and therefore have not been able to meet to discuss the issues). These have been challenged as soon as they have emerged.

The FBU has raised concerns in relation to this nationally and locally and a letter is being prepared to raise these concerns at local level.

These are extremely important issues which, if necessary, will be progressed to the pension regulator.

The Executive Council meets on 16, 17 & 18 June and these issues will be discussed further. Further reports will follow.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

                       

MATT WRACK

GENERAL SECRETARY

MW/sll

 

NJC Meeting 3rd June 2015 - Pay offer from Employers

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TO:   ALL MEMBERS

Dear Brother/Sister

Pay: Meeting of National Joint Council, 3 June 2015

The FBU met with our national employers at the National Joint Council (NJC) for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services on 3 June. The agenda included a discussion on pay. As you will see from the attached NJC circular, the employers made an offer of an increase in pay rates of 1% from the settlement date of 1st July. All members are now asked to discuss this offer through FBU branches. Regional and Brigade Committees will then discuss this consultation in order to provide a response to the Executive Council by 30 June.

Background: Discussions at FBU Conference and at NJC

The period since the recession of 2007/8 has seen a sharp fall in workers living standards and a failure for these to recover. This has been institutionalised in the public sector by the policy of the previous coalition government, which we can expect to continue under the new Conservative government. By cutting funding to public services and by declaring the need for pay to be frozen – or limited to 1% increases - the government has delivered an unprecedented attack on millions of public sector workers across the UK.

The union has discussed these attacks in the context of the huge and unprecedented cuts to our service and to the widening roles which firefighters have undertaken over the past fifteen years. The past two conferences of the union have discussed a strategy to identify these new areas of work; to discuss them with our employers; and to make the case for improved central funding to take account of the wider role of our service. A part of such discussions would mean the need to address the question of pay.

Through the NJC, a series of five work-streams has looked at various aspects of work of the Fire and Rescue Service. Each side was able to bring issues to these discussions and they included areas which are clearly seen as normal Fire and Rescue Service activity and other areas which are not agreed and which – in the view of the FBU at least – are outside firefighter role maps and contractual obligations. The work-streams have discussed; Multi Agency Response; Environmental Challenges; Emergency Medical Response; Youth and Social Engagement; and Inspection and Enforcement.

This work has completed the first phase – the mapping of various strands of work. The next phase will discuss areas which each side may wish to pursue and the implications. This would need to address a range of issues, including training requirement, standards, contractual issues etc. it is important to note that no agreement has been reached on these discussions and they are not concluded.

These discussions are part of a longer-term campaign which, for the FBU, is about protecting our service and our profession for the future in the very difficult times we face and with a government committed to further rounds of cuts to public services.

Timescales and employers offer

It is expected that the next phase of these discussions would conclude in the autumn. During this time FBU officials will report in more detail to local committees and to local meetings of members. It is in the context of these discussions that the Executive Council considered the employers’ offer of a 1% increase for 2015. The Executive Council considered all the options available, including the need for an industrial response in the case of a rejection.   After considering the various options, the Executive Council recommends to members that the offer is accepted.

Pay – the slide must stop

Nevertheless, the Executive Council – and the union’s Conference – have been clear to the employers. The attack on wages will need to be challenged and stopped. Over coming months this will need to be done in various ways. We will need:

Working with other unions

  • To build a mass campaign against the cuts to public services which lie behind the attacks on public sector pay.
  • To expose the devastating impact cuts to living standards have had – in our service and other public services.
  • To expose the fact that the attacks on wages and on public services have slowed the recovery of the economy.
  • To support all groups of workers fighting to defend pay.
  • To discuss the possibility of a serious campaign of coordinated industrial action against pay restraint - and the timing of such a campaign.
  • To develop our case for investment in the Fire and Rescue Service rather than cuts.

Within the Fire and Rescue Service

  • To build our campaign explaining the wide-ranging work of the modern Fire and Rescue Service.
  • To campaign for central funding that takes account of this wider role.
  • To take these arguments to local Fire Service politicians, to local communities and to central government.

The attacks we have faced over the past few years – on pay, on jobs and on pensions - are unprecedented in recent history. Our task is to build a campaign within our own sector and with the wider trade union movement which challenges government policy on pay and begins to restore the ground lost in the past period.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

MATT WRACK

GENERAL SECRETARY

 

Firefighter Pensions in aftermath of the General Election

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To: ALL MEMBERS

Dear Brother/Sister,

FIREFIGHTER PENSIONS IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE GENERAL ELECTION

Firefighter pensions were high on the agenda of the FBU conference that took place in Blackpool this week.

The Executive Council submitted an emergency resolution ‘Firefighter Pensions in the aftermath of the general election’ which was debated and discussed by delegates from every brigade in the UK.

The Conference debated the current position and the Executive Council stressed that the campaign continues.

POST-ELECTION ISSUES

The recent general election result is clearly a serious setback for our campaign. It was clear that a change of government provided an opportunity for progress to be made and members have previously been informed of the discussion which the union had held with the Labour front bench. Members will be aware of this and circular 2015HOC0242SS included the letter from Lyn Brown to the General Secretary which outlined these areas. Unfortunately the general election result means that this option is no longer available. This will clearly be seen by members as a significant setback.

LOBBYING CONTINUES

FBU delegates were told that the Executive Council will continue to make our case at Westminster and with other governments as the imposed schemes are still unacceptable. At the time of the debate no announcement had been made regarding the new DCLG fire minister.

The FBU has already lobbied and pressurised MPs outlining why the pension schemes are unworkable and why the legislation should have been annulled. We have set out a significant amount of evidence which supports our concerns enabling us to win every argument on every occasion, in every forum. The pressure from members forced the previous coalition government to debate the legislation in Parliament in December 2014. This legislation was only supported when the former DCLG Fire Minister misled MPs by suggesting she had given firefighters a clear guarantee in relation to how firefighters would be treated if they could not maintain their fitness as they aged. The union has exposed this promise as worthless and following up this issue is now required. Conference delegates agreed that this political pressure should continue.

CAMPAIGN WILL CONTINUE

FBU members in England have already taken over 50 periods of strike action as well as prolonged periods of action short of strike. In congratulating members for the fantastic unity shown, Conference agreed that the industrial action option remains.

The union will continue with a strategy that integrates the legal, political and industrial elements. The Executive Council will assess the situation following the general election and consider the new challenges that a Conservative government brings. Members in every brigade will be consulted as part of this assessment. Head office officials have already attended meetings in several parts of the UK. Please take the opportunity to attend these meetings when they are scheduled in your brigade.

PENSION CHANGES FROM THE CAMPAIGN

Delegates were reminded that the strategy so far had provided some improvements. These have only been won through the campaign by either industrial action, legal action or political lobbying.

This is demonstrated most notably in Northern Ireland where the union successfully negotiated a normal pension age of 55 for the firefighters’ pension scheme. In Scotland the union has negotiated: a real guarantee that firefighters will not be sacked for simply getting older, an improved position on protection, and a lower actuarial reduction for firefighters who choose to access their pension benefits at age 55.

This lower actuarial reduction is also available for 2015 scheme members in Wales. Conference was informed that discussions will continue in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as there are outstanding issues and concerns that need addressing.

However, in England there are still significant issues which have not been addressed and the imposed 2015 scheme remains unworkable.

NEXT STEPS

The FBU will;

  • Attempt to meet with the new DCLG fire minister as soon as possible to ascertain if there  is any potential for further improvements through negotiation,
  • Mobilise members to bring the greatest pressure on elected representatives in England and elsewhere,
  • Continue to assess the situation taking account of the challenges that a Conservative government brings,
  • Continue with a strategy that integrates the legal, political and industrial elements,
    • Continue to keep members involved through circulars, films, bulletins and other means so that members are ready to renew action if it is necessary,
    • Consult with members in every brigade and consider all issues that are raised and views as to the way forward.

Conference overwhelmingly supported this position giving a clear message that the campaign must continue and that FBU members are not going away.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally,

MATT WRACK

GENERAL SECRETARY

         

 

 
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