FBU wins pay demands as it continues backing other strikers
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said that it is calling off planned strikes following a pay deal. Negotiations and the threat of industrial action led employers to offer a potentially above-inflation pay increase. On top of this, as it won, the union continued to back strikers in other sectors.
On 6 March, the FBU announced that its members had “overwhelmingly accepted” a fresh offer by Fire and Rescue Service employers. The deal offered an immediate 7% pay rise, backdated to July 2022. It will also add a further 5% pay rise in July of this year. Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said this 11% total “may amount to a slight increase in real terms pay”. As a result, 96% of members voted to accept the offer on a turnout of 84%. In a press statement, Wrack 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.
The FBU started its campaign for better pay in July 2022 after it rejected an initial 2% pay increase offer from employers. It later rejected a revised 5% offer in November. Then, at the end of January, its members escalated the campaign by voting to strike. It was this threat to strike that led to the FBU’s win.
Power of collective action
In its statement on winning an effective 11% pay rise, the FBU highlighted the crucial role that voting to strike played in negotiations. It said that “collective bargaining was the key” in making employers come up with a serious offer.
It also pointed out that direct negotiation with employers was important for reaching a sensible resolution. Unions in other sectors including teaching and the NHS must negotiate through ‘independent’ pay review bodies. These are groups that Tribune magazine has described as a mechanism used by the government to “hide its own responsibility for keeping wages unliveably low”. The FBU said that such a body in the fire and rescue service sector would inevitably have led to strikes.
As a result, the FBU extended solidarity to other unions still fighting for realistic wage increases and basic working conditions. Wrack said:
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
He ended by committing the FBU to the ongoing fight against Tory anti-strike laws.
As the Canary previously wrote, the University and Colleges Union’s (UCU) recent decision to call off strikes weakened its hand and led to a backslide in negotiations for the union. Contrasted against this, the FBU’s victory shows why strikes are essential. It also illustrates exactly why the Tories are attempting to undermine industrial action.
The FBU’s success is a lesson in why we all need to support industrial action and the right to strike. They are essential tools for working class dignity.
Featured image via Defence Imagery/Flickr
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