Matt at conference 2022

Labor conference backs firefighters on pay

Labor conference has passed a motion backing firefighters on pay as they prepare to ballot for strike action. Successful conference motions become Labor Party policy.

Labor leader Keir Starmer has previously failed to back striking workers and advised frontbench shadow cabinet members to stay away from picket lines.

The FBU-backed motion states that “Conference condemns the 2% pay offer made by fire employers to firefighters in June this year” and “is appalled by the 12% real-terms cut in average full-time firefighters’ pay (measured by CPI ) since 2010”. It also committed “the Labor Party to vigorously campaigning alongside the FBU in defense of firefighters and their service”.

In June, firefighters received a 2% pay offer from fire service employers. This was rejected by firefighters following consultation amongst members, in July. Preparations to ballot for strike action are now underway.

Commenting on the motion passing, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said:

“The Labor Party must stand by workers as they fight for better pay. This is a significant step in the fight to make sure it does that.

“Firefighters are trying to protect the living standards of themselves and their families. They have seen years of disgracefully poor pay rises and have suffered from crisis after crisis, from the financial crash to austerity to the pandemic. They worked incredibly hard throughout the pandemic. Firefighters deserve fair pay and are preparing to fight for it.”

Seconding the motion in the conference hall, FBU vice president Ben Selby said:

“Firefighters, like so many represented in this room, tirelessly and bravely worked through the deadly pandemic. But what did this abhorrent ruling party do to repay them? They continued to strangle our pay… Firefighters aren’t going to sit back and take it anymore. We are preparing our fightback and when that comes in upcoming weeks we expect those that represent our class and our movement in Westminster to stand in solidarity with us and on our picket lines.”

The motion went on to condemn the government’s recent fire and rescue service white paper, stating that “conference is appalled that the White Paper contains no plans or resources to improve the fire and rescue service”.

The motion was passed unanimously, on a show of hands.

Photo credit: Mark Thomas

You can read the composite motion in full below, which, from a number of motions brought unions including the FBU as well as the Association of Labor Councilors, and was proposed by UNISON and seconded by the FBU:

Composite 14 – Public Services and local government funding

Conference notes the UK is currently in a cost-of-living crisis with the highest levels of inflation for more than 40 years. Alongside the general rates of inflation, certain sectors such as fuel and energy costs have increased far beyond inflation, and still seem to be spiraling out of control with no end or reassurance in sight.

Conference condemns the Westminster government’s longstanding policy of tight constraints on public sector pay in the UK, with decades of central funding cuts, pay caps, imposed pay review bodies and other limits designed to hold down the pay of all workers.

Conference applauds the local government workers who kept vital services running through Covid-19 despite the huge risks they faced at work. In the absence of leadership from this Tory government, it was these workers alongside Labor councillors who led the way, whether delivering food parcels to shielding residents, keeping schools open or looking after the elderly and vulnerable.

Conference recognizes support that Labor in Local Government has put in place to attempt to mitigate the mismanagement of the economy by the Conservative UK Government. This is despite cuts of more than 60p in the pound to council funding since 2010.

Conference recognizes the key role of the voluntary & community sector in helping our communities in this most challenging of times.

Conference notes that local government is critical to tackling the big issues facing society. It’s Labor councils leading the way in declaring the climate emergency and it’s Labor councils on the frontline helping people survive this cost-of-living crisis.

Conference is appalled by the 12% real-terms cut in average full-time firefighters’ pay (measured by CPI) since 2010.

Conference condemns the 2% pay offer made by fire employers to firefighters in June this year, the largest real terms pay cut on firefighters in living memory.

Local government workers have endured over a decade of real-terms pay cuts and many cannot now afford the essentials.

Workers deserve protection through properly funded public services. Conference stands appalled at the recent increase in threats abuse and violence towards retail workers and reaffirms its belief that abuse should never be part of the job.

Usdaw’s research has shown that since 2017, the proportion of retail workers being abused at work has increased from around half to 90%. The number of retail workers being physically assaulted has trebled over the same period.

Conference condemns the impact of Tory austerity cuts on the safety of workers. Cuts to probation, rehabilitation and other programs that support offenders and reduce incidents, as well as a significant reduction in resources for both community policing initiatives and the justice system, have all had a serious impact on the safety of retail workers.

Conference also notes that outsourcing and privatization is eroding pay and conditions, and damaging public services while big companies profit.

Conference condemns the Home Office White Paper, Reforming Our Fire and Rescue Service, launched in May 2022.

Conference is appalled that the White Paper contains no plans or resources to improve the fire and rescue service, nor will it solve the building safety crisis exposed by the Grenfell Tower fire.

Conference believes firefighting is a humanitarian service, not about policing.

Conference believes that the White Paper:

• threatens the legal rights of firefighters to collectively bargain with employers over pay, conditions, safety and other contractual matters.

• threatens the right of firefighters to take legal industrial action.

• seeks to give chief fire officers powers to dictate cuts to public services.

• if implemented, would cut firefighters’ pay, increase hours, roles and intensity, introduce unsafe practices and stretch the service to breaking point.

Conference opposes the White Paper, which is an attack on the workforce and the Fire Brigades Union.

Conference commits the Labor Party to vigorously campaigning alongside the FBU in defense of firefighters and their service.

Conference resolves that Labor will:

– Ensure local government workers receive a pay rise each year at least in line with RPI

– Commit to proper long-term funding for local government services so that councils can do what they do best: develop innovative ways to support their communities, reduce inequalities, address the climate emergency, grow fairer local economies, and tackle the cost-of- living crisis

– Support Labor councillors and trade unions to campaign together against Conservative cuts and commits to the establishment of robust structures to ensure that Labor’s front bench works closely with Labor Local Government on all issues to do with helping our citizen’s manage this crisis.

– Combat further privatization, academisation and outsourcing, and work to bring public services back in-house.

Conference calls upon the Labor Party to commit to significant investment in public services to protect retail workers; this investment should include:

• Delivering nationwide initiatives that support the complete rehabilitation of offenders.

• To invest in community led policing initiatives, which recognize the invaluable role that retail workers play in our communities and deliver locally led programs to guarantee worker safety.

• A properly funded justice system to tackle the backlog and deliver victims of violence and abuse the justice they deserve.

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