MANY will no doubt have seen in the news that we are currently
recruiting an Emergency Fire Crew in case of industrial action and
this is provoking quite a debate.
The recruitment is in response to a ballot that is currently
taking place, that could see firefighters across the country take
part in a national strike. It is a dispute between the unions and
the Government over pensions, and not between GMFRS and our
However, having said that, it does have a serious implication
for us, as it may mean we have no fire cover. So we are trying to
put a contingency plan in place for the worst case scenario.
People will remember the Armed Forces with Green Goddesses
stepping in to help during previous industrial disputes (a decade
ago now), but they are no longer available to us. So, we have to
come up with another option, and indeed we have a legal obligation
to do so - but of course we also want to keep the public as safe as
possible in all circumstances.
It is something every fire service is facing - though
every fire service is different, with different sorts of
firefighters and different sorts of risks (built up towns and
cities or rural areas). So their plans are different. The
plan we have is to ask members of the public to become part of an
emergency fire crew that could step in if - and we do stress
if - industrial action takes place.
We would wish to make it clear that all our firefighters are
genuinely hoping industrial action can be avoided - but they
also recognise our need to have in place proper contingency
arrangements, as they have no desire to see the public at risk.
The results of the ballot will not be known until the end of
August, but we can't wait for then to launch our plan, otherwise we
would not have time to train our emergency crew. This is why our
advert is live now (you can view the details here:
It is clearly an emotive subject and everyone will have their
view. BBC Radio Manchester covered the issue this morning, when
Alan Beswick interviewed the Fire Brigades Union and the Chairman
of the Fire Authority. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01cg6nc
The FBU interview is at 1hr 1min in and the Fire Authority
Chairman is 2hrs 2 mins into the programme.
One clear question from that interview was whether the
contingency arrangements placed the public more at risk
- as, for all we can provide basic training, this is not the
same as the skills and abilities of our day to day crews?
This is a very difficult question to answer as it depends on so
many things - what actually happens on the day, how careful
the public is in terms of managing their own safety, how long a
dispute lasts etc etc. At this stage, therefore, as we say, this is
a contingency arrangement because the possibility is there, and a
ballot is running and we cannot wait until it concludes.
We remain hopeful there will not be industrial action and even
if there is we have no reason to believe it will be extended over a
long period. Further, if the likelihood does increase then we will
be much more active in terms of safety advice and so on. So
we would really not wish anyone to be alarmed or over react to what
is just a sensible contingency because the possibility of something