UK firefighters have voted to strike over pay after rejecting a below-inflation offer of a 5% increase in November last year.
The decision is the result of two separate ballots among Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members, which took place simultaneously in Northern Ireland and in the North West of England. Of the 73% who participated in the ballot in England, 88% voted in favour of strike action. In Northern Ireland, 94% of members did so.
According to the FBU, the vote follows more than a decade of real-term pay cuts.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “Firefighters across the UK have spoken. The Fire Brigades Union has a decisive mandate for strike action. This is an overwhelming vote for strike action against an offer which would mean further significant cuts to real-term wages for firefighters and control room staff. They have already lost at least 12% of the value of their pay since 2010.”
Describing the action as “an absolute last resort”, he insisted that any disruption to services caused “lies squarely with fire service employers and government ministers”.
Wrack added: “Rishi Sunak’s government has refused to make funding available for a decent pay offer to firefighters and control staff. Firefighters were among Britain’s Covid heroes who kept frontline services going during the pandemic. The Prime Minister has badly misjudged the public mood by imposing pay cuts on key workers.”
The FBU has now given the government and employers until 9 February to present an improved offer for members to vote on to avert strike action.
“Our members risk their health and safety, and sometimes their lives, round the clock to keep people safe and serve their communities. However, with inflation and energy bills rocketing, they are now increasingly struggling to pay the bills or to afford the basics,” Wrack continued.
“The government and the employers have the power to stop strikes from happening by making a credible offer that can resolve this dispute. The ball is in their court. We have delayed calling strikes to allow the employers to meet us and to make a new offer. I hope they take that opportunity. Otherwise, in the coming weeks, we intend to announce a series of strike dates and industrial action.”
If the industrial action goes ahead, they will be the first nation-wide firefighters’ strike over pay in 20 years.