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    Fire Brigades Union

    News Release

    23 September 2020

    Evidence shows failure of consecutive governments to properly regulate, FBU says

    Emails seen by the Grenfell Tower Inquiry reveal “just how lax” ministers allowed UK building regulations to become, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says.

    The correspondence revealed that housing and construction industry salespeople knew that, without government intervention, high-rise buildings would continue to be constructed with flammable cladding.

    The Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding on Grenfell had a flammble polyethylene (PE) core, but was also available with a less combustible fire rated (FR) core.

    In an email seen by the inquiry, a salesperson said that Alcoa (now Arconic) “won’t change their core [to fire rated] until they are forced to due to changes in the fire regulations”.Responding, Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

    “Ministers have avoided scrutiny so far in this inquiry, but today’s evidence shows just how lax UK building regulations had become before Grenfell.

    “People in the industry knew that, until government stepped in, homes would continue to be wrapped in flammable cladding and constructed with other dangerous materials, but ministers showed no interest in tackling the problem.

    “There’s no depth that businesses will not sink to within the law to turn a profit. Consecutive governments oversaw decades of deregulation, privatisation, and austerity, utterly failing to ensure the housing and construction sectors were acting safely.

    Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

    • NOTE 1: Screenshot of email from Geof Blades of CEP Architectural Facades

    • The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is the trade union representing the overwhelming majority of firefighters in the UK and serves as the professional voice of firefighters and the fire and rescue service. The union is a core participant in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry
    Comments Off on Grenfell Inquiry: Industry exploited lax building regulations to sell flammable cladding
    • FBU members to be consulted on offer with union recommending money be paid immediately to staff
    • FBU to launch campaign for better pay with option of industrial action on table

    The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has condemned a 2% pay offer from employers labelling it ‘insulting’ to frontline firefighters and control staff.

    Employers have offered firefighters and control staff a 2% pay uplift, below teachers, doctors, dentists, police, and prison officers. The offer is on par with judges, senior civil servants, and the armed forces.

    The FBU has slammed fire service employers and chief fire officers for failing to value the work of their staff and criticised government ministers for failing to step in and ensure firefighters are properly rewarded in this year’s pay round – especially in light of the extra work taken on in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

    After a meeting of the FBU’s Executive Council today (Wednesday 29 July) it has been recommended that the money be immediately paid to staff as it “will be better in the pockets of firefighters and control staff than sitting in employer reserves”.

    The FBU’s pay offer will now go out to consultation for 28 days, during which firefighters and control staff will discuss the offer at union meetings in workplaces across the UK. The FBU will talk to members about their options to campaign for better pay over the next year, including industrial action.

    Firefighters have taken on an additional 14 areas of work to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

    An agreement reached on 26 March has allowed firefighters to drive ambulances, deliver vital supplies to the elderly and vulnerable, and move the bodies of the deceased.

    Since then, a number of further activities have been agreed, including assembling personal protective equipment (PPE) and training care home staff in infection, prevention and control.

    Despite this, fire service employers have offered the same pay settlement as last year, when pay rates for firefighters and control staff were increased by 2%.

    After a decade of pay restraint, firefighters are around £4,000 worse off than in 2010.

    Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

    “Firefighters and control staff were due a pay offer on 1 July. Nearly a month past that deadline, fire service employers have made an offer – there is absolutely no excuse for making our members wait like this.

    “Sadly, the offer reflects the fact that employers simply do not value the vital and life-saving work our members undertake every day, nor the extraordinary lengths many have gone to in aiding the coronavirus response. Government ministers could have stepped in to ensure our members would be properly rewarded in this year’s pay round, but they chose to stand idly by.

    “The Chief Fire Officers who advise employers during pay negotiations must also bear some responsibility for the desperate situation facing our service and those who work in it. Throughout the past decade they have done absolutely nothing to challenge the brutal austerity policies of central government which have continued to rob our service of investment and resources.

    “This pay offer does not address the needs of FBU members whose wages have still not recovered from years of pay restraint, however firefighters and control staff desperately need an improvement in their living standards and this money will be better in their pockets than sitting in employer reserves.

    “We will now consult firefighters and control staff on the offer and discuss campaigning options around issues of pay and conditions over the coming year, including various forms of industrial action.”

    Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

    Comments Off on Firefighters and control staff offered 2% pay increase

    Today (Monday 6 July), hearings in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry begin again after a pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has called for no more “painstaking postponements”, saying that “in the cold hard light of day” the crimes of those responsible are apparent.

    Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

    “The bereaved, survivors and residents of Grenfell should have seen justice delivered by now, but instead have been forced to wait, first because of the obscene moves from corporate witnesses to secure immunity from prosecution, and then because of the coronavirus pandemic which made continuing the inquiry all but impossible.

    “We are now more than three years on from the disastrous fire at Grenfell Tower and there can be no more painstaking postponements.

    “Before hearings were paused, we saw those involved in the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower try again and again to evade responsibility. But in the cold hard light of day, the crimes of those who wrapped the building in flammable cladding, and who ignored the concerns are residents, are apparent – and they must be held accountable.

    “Firefighters continue to stand with the Grenfell community in their pursuit of justice.”

    Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

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    The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has vowed to fight “unthinkable” proposals to cut the budget for the London Fire Brigade by £25m over two years, as part of the Mayor of London’s £500m saving plans.

    The FBU has condemned the “huge damage to the fire service” left over from Boris Johnson’s time as Mayor of London. Central government have so far refused to bail out the GLA’s budget shortfall accrued during the coronavirus pandemic.

    The union has criticised Mayor Sadiq Kahn for “passing on Tory cuts to the very emergency services that keep people safe” and has vowed to hold him to his commitment to protect frontline services.

    David Shek, FBU executive council member for London, said:

    “London is the epicentre of the UK’s building safety crisis and there is no safe way to manage funding cuts of this magnitude. A £25 million cut to London Fire Brigade’s funding is unthinkable and we will fight it to the bitter end.

    “We have just marked the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire and in the years since have dealt with a number of fires in buildings with similar combustible materials. The dangers of cutting the fire and rescue service right now are blatantly obvious.

    “The Mayor has committed to protected frontline emergency services and we will hold him to that. We will not accept any reduction in frontline services – whether that be crewing reductions, shift changes, or a recruitment freeze. Make no mistake – any reduction in fire cover will put lives at risk.”

    Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

     “The scale of these cuts is devastating and is a gross insult to firefighters in London who have gone above and beyond to support their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The public will not support these cuts, and we intend to fight them.

    “Sadiq Khan made a commitment to protect vital frontline services and he must do that. The government should support regions facing financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19 but there is no excuse for a Labour Mayor to be passing on Tory cuts to the very emergency services that keep people safe across the capital.

    “Boris Johnson did huge damage to the fire and rescue service as London Mayor by pushing through the biggest cuts in history. These cuts impacted the response on the night of the Grenfell Tower fire and the London Fire Brigade has still not fully recovered. To be considering more spending cuts is downright reckless and would show contempt for the public’s safety.

    “This pandemic has demonstrated the value of the fire and rescue service and we should actually be talking about new investment to make the service better and safer. The government must step up to provide whatever financial support is necessary or the prime minister’s talk of ending austerity will ring hollow across London. If that support is not forthcoming, the Mayor must pledge to scrap these dangerous cuts.

    Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

    Comments Off on £25m cut to London Fire Brigade “unthinkable”, Fire Brigades Union warns Mayor and Prime Minister

    On the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said firefighters will not accept another year of inaction on building safety.

    The FBU has called for an end to “a politics that values profit over people”, condemning “endless promises, excuses, and platitudes” from government.

    Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

    “Firefighters do all that they can to protect human life and the loss of 72 people at Grenfell was deeply traumatic for them as well as for all those others directly affected by the fire. Today, a community and their firefighters grieve. But we will not accept another year of inaction.

    “Three years on, we have heard endless promises, excuses, and platitudes from government, but the reality on the ground has not changed.

    “Half a million of people are trapped in unsafe homes and across the country another Grenfell could happen tomorrow, potentially where fire services are not as well resourced. Every day that the government fails to tackle the building safety crisis is another day that residents’ lives are being put at risk.

    “While the world has faced up to the coronavirus pandemic, the inquiry into the Grenfell atrocity has been put on hold, giving the companies and politicians responsible more time still to avoid scrutiny.

    “It was decades of deregulation, privatisation, and austerity that allowed Grenfell to take place, with a politics that values profit over people. When the economy restarts, we must not fall prey to the failed arguments of the past that led to this horrendous loss of life. “

    Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

    Comments Off on Grenfell anniversary: Fire Brigades Union “will not accept another year of inaction”

    Firefighters’ work responding to the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended until July, as the UK continues to battle coronavirus.

    The Fire Brigades Union (FBU), National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), and National Employers agreed the extension to the national agreement stating that the virus “continues to be a risk in our communities. It comes despite the government moving to ease lockdown restrictions.

    The agreement, first reached on 26 March, has allowed firefighters to assist ambulance services, deliver vital supplies to the elderly and vulnerable, and move the bodies of the deceased. Since then, a number of further activities have been agreed, including assembling personal protective equipment (PPE) and training care home staff in infection, prevention and control.

    The work has now been extended to 15 July and could be extended until 26 August.

    But the Tripartite Group – as the FBU, NFCC and National Employers are known – has raised concerns about variation in local risk assessments, with the latest agreement stating that “the hazards do not vary across fire and rescue areas”.

    National risk assessments are now to be produced for all fourteen agreed activities, to be implemented locally by fire and rescue services. If successful, the agreement will be extended until 26 August.

    Firefighters working in ambulances, mortuaries, hospitals, and care homes should be detached from their normal fire service location, the Tripartite Group recommended, and services should halt any coronavirus response work outside of the agreement until activities can be agreed at a national level.

    New COVID-19 testing guidelines for fire and rescue personnel have also been agreed, requiring a test after 3 days of removal from detachment for coronavirus response duty. Staff will not be permitted to return to fire stations until they have tested negative.

    Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

    “You need only look at the horrific death toll in our care homes to see that this pandemic is not over yet. The government may be easing restrictions, but firefighters are still needed to respond to this serious threat.

    “We are concerned about the variation in risk assessments between services, as well as attempts by some fire chiefs to force firefighters into work outside of the agreement. The co-operation seen in most fire and rescue services has been extremely encouraging, but these steps are needed to make sure our members are safe and that safety standards are consistent.

    “Firefighters’ work so far in this pandemic has been extraordinary and will have undoubtedly saved lives and helped to keep the NHS on its feet. The threat to our communities is still severe, so we’re doing what we can to ensure firefighters can continue helping them through this crisis.”

    Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

    1 Comment
    • Latest national agreement will see firefighters train care staff in infection, prevention and control
    • Request for help came from senior health officials in England

    Firefighters have been called in to deliver special infection, prevention and control (IPC) training packages to care home staff in a move that is hoped will help to halt the spread of coronavirus in the sector.

    Under the new measure, firefighter volunteers will train care home staff directly on IPC procedures, the “donning and doffing” of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hygiene measures, hand cleaning, and how to safely carry out COVID-19 tests. Designated care home staff will also be taught how to carry out the same training for their colleagues.

    The agreement will allow support to be provided to nursing and care homes, domiciliary care, supported independent living and sheltered accommodation.

    England’s Chief Nursing Officer and Director of Community Health requested the work, which was followed by a letter from the Westminster Fire Minister.

    While the request only came from the Westminster government, the agreement allows firefighters across the UK to support care staff subject to local negotiation. Local resilience forums, care homes and NHS clinical commissioning groups can now write to their fire and rescue service to request the support.

    It builds on firefighters’ work face-fitting PPE masks for frontline NHS and care staff, delivering PPE and medical supplies to NHS and care facilities, and assisting in taking COVID-19 test samples.

    Firefighters have now signed up to a total of 14 new areas of work including moving dead bodies, driving ambulances, and delivering food and medicines to vulnerable people.

    The agreement contains a number of measures to prevent cross-infection between vulnerable individuals, care home staff and firefighters. Firefighters will take measures to prevent clothing and equipment that may have been exposed to the virus from contaminating fire engines, including using sterilised safety bags.

    All those volunteering for the work will need appropriate training, PPE, and high standards of hygiene and social distancing must be carried out. Services will need to follow a generic risk assessment, provided by the FBU, NFCC, and National Employers.

    More than 11,000 people have died due to coronavirus in UK care homes with the government coming under fierce criticism for allowing infections to spread through the sector.

    Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

    “The crisis in care homes is a national scandal but our members will do what they can to help. Firefighters, highly trained in the safe use of PPE and infection prevention and control, can provide vital support at this difficult time.

    “We’re coming into wildfire season and can expect an incredibly busy few months for firefighters. But, nonetheless, crews have taken on extraordinary new areas of work to support their communities through this pandemic.

    “While firefighters are here to help care staff and residents through this crisis, we must be clear that it should never have come to this. The government has disgracefully mishandled this pandemic, allowing the virus to spread into care homes unchecked – and thousands have paid with their lives.

    Media contacts

    Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

    FBU press office
    press@fbu.org,uk

    • The full agreement between the FBU, NFCC, and National Employers is available here: 2020 may 22 – tripartite 7 – final minus hyperlink.pdf
    • This is the latest of fourteen new areas of work detailed in the full agreement
    • Under previous agreements, firefighters can now construct vital protective face shields for NHS and care staff, drive ambulances in parts of the country, will also now begin transferring both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients from Nightingale hospitals: https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2020/04/24/firefighters-make-face-shields-health-and-care-staff-and-transfer-patients-and
    • Firefighters are now permitted to assist ambulance services in some specified activities and drive ambulances; deliver food and medicines to vulnerable people; and, in the case of mass casualties due to COVID-19, move dead bodies.
    • Firefighters can also fit face masks and deliver vital PPE and medical supplies to NHS and care staff; take samples for COVID-19 antigen tests; drive ambulances to non-emergency outpatient appointments and to transport those in need of urgent care; and to train non-emergency service personnel to drive ambulances: https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2020/04/16/coronavirus-firefighters-now-allowed-carry-out-antigen-tests
    • The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is the professional and democratic voice of firefighters and other workers within fire and rescue services across the UK. The general secretary is Matt Wrack
    • The FBU is on Twitter: @fbunational and Facebook: facebook.com/FireBrigadesUnion1918
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    2020 may 22 – tripartite 7 – final minus hyperlink.pdf

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    A confidential Treasury document leaked to The Telegraph revealed the government is considering a two-year public sector freeze to pay for the coronavirus response.

    The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has hit back at any attempt to make key workers pay for yet another crisis they did not cause and has vowed to fight any real-terms pay cut.

    Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

    “Public sector workers were forced to pay for a financial crisis caused by the banks’ drive for endless profits and by a negligent government deregulation agenda. Now, once again, the Tories are preparing to make the same workers pay for another crisis they did not cause.

    “Firefighters have had a real-terms pay cut of around £4,000 over the last decade, much like workers across the public sector. Key workers and the public they serve will not accept another attempt to pass the buck from the rich to working people.  Far from discussing pay cuts, the government should instead be considering how best it can reward those who have got us through this pandemic.

    “The government is talking about dishing out medals to key workers in one breath, whilst planning pay cuts for them in another. We will fight any attempt to make those who see us through the coronavirus crisis pay for it with another real-terms pay cut.”

    Media contacts

    Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer
    FBU press office
    press@fbu.org,uk

    Comments Off on Treasury leak: Firefighters vow to fight any public sector real-terms pay cut

    The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has published the findings of a survey into the progress of remediation work to improve fire safety in residential buildings. The survey highlights significant ongoing fire safety issues in multi-occupancy buildings across the country leaving residents with facing bills of thousands of pounds.

    The survey found that:

    • 70% of respondents had different forms of combustible cladding and many had other fire safety issues including missing or inadequate fire breaks (34%), combustible or missing insulation (30%), timber balconies or walkways (14%) and inadequate fire doors (5%).
    • Residents are sceptical about whether the government’s £1bn building safety fund is enough to make homes safe and are already incurring huge costs for measures such as waking watches.
    • Many residents are also angry that it is the government, not building owners, who are footing the bill for remediation work.

    Responding, Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

    “The government, big business and wealthy building owners have had three years since Grenfell to fix the dangerous homes still trapping thousands of residents. The accounts in this report should make them feel utterly ashamed.

    “Both residents and firefighters have warned the government and building owners countless times that this crisis goes far beyond the ACM cladding that was on Grenfell Tower but, just as with Grenfell residents, they were ignored.

    “The fire safety fund announced in the Budget still abandons thousands of residents trapped in dangerous buildings below 18 metres and in buildings with other fire safety defects. There is also still no clarity on who is responsible for remediation work. This limbo is a perfect excuse for government and those who own the buildings to continue passing the buck between one another whilst failing to address the concerns of residents.

    “£1bn is not enough to address the building safety crisis we are facing. The government needs to urgently conduct an open and accountable national audit of unsafe buildings, properly cost the work and set out ways to recover the cost from building owners.”

    The press release for the HCLG committee survey findings is available here:

    https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/17/housing-communities-and-local-government-committee/news/146327/combustible-cladding-survey-highlights-ongoing-issues-in-residential-buildings/

    The FBU is the trade union representing the overwhelming majority of firefighters in the UK and serves as the professional voice of firefighters and the fire and rescue service. The union is a core participant in the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

    The FBU launched its Grenfell: Never Again campaign on the second anniversary of the fire, with five demands: 1) the removal of all flammable cladding; 2) retrofitting sprinklers wherever a risk assessment deems necessary; 3) ensure a strong, democratic voice for tenants; 4) reverse the cuts to firefighter numbers and fire safety officers and; 5) create a new national body to oversee the fire and rescue service. For more information, please see here:

    www.fbu.org.uk/grenfell-never-again

     

    Comments Off on Firefighters slam government and building owners as HCLG committee cladding survey highlights widespread safety failings

    Firefighters’ Union making demand on International Workers Memorial Day
    Government must issue urgent guidance to employers in public and private sector, FBU says

    The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is today (Tuesday) demanding that the government issue guidance to employers stating that the death of firefighters and key workers as a result of COVID-19 should be automatically recognised as work-related, allowing for their families to receive compensation.

    In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and devolved administrations, the FBU says that the guidance must cover all of those officially recognised as key workers by their respective governments as well as those who have been required to continue to work by their employer.

    The Westminster government announced a life assurance scheme for the families of NHS and care staff, but the FBU says thousands of families of firefighters and other key workers are still at risk of financial harm should they die from the virus.

    The FBU says that any compensation scheme should not preclude employees’ families from taking legal action against employers who may have jeopardised the safety of their workers, such as by failing to provide protective equipment.

    As well as the over 100 NHS and care staff that have already succumbed to the illness, dozens of transport workers are thought to have died, along with other workers in both public and private sectors.

    The FBU says that employers need to be given clear and unambiguous instruction to automatically consider all COVID-19 deaths as having been caused by the performance of their employees’ duties.

    The demand comes on International Workers Memorial Day as millions around the country and the world observe a minute’s silence in memory of the front line workers who have died during the crisis.

    Firefighters at risk

    The FBU says firefighters are at increased risk from COVID-19 infection as a result of their regular interaction with the public during emergencies. However, this risk has increased further with fire and rescue services undertaking a number of additional COVID-19 duties.

    Firefighters across the UK are now moving dead bodies, driving ambulances, delivering medicines and food to vulnerable people, and transporting patients to and from Nightingale Hospitals.

    Currently, firefighters can receive compensation from their specific scheme for long-term injury, illness, and death, but, to be eligible, a strict criteria must be satisfied to prove it was sustained as a result of their work. In the fire service and other industries this is often a source of disagreement between unions representing workers or their families and the employer.

    The FBU says that unless a specific COVID-19 compensations determination is forthcoming from the government, demonstrating that the illness came from their role as a firefighter will prove difficult, causing distress for families and potentially financial harm. [Note 1]

    The FBU is now calling for the government to write to all fire and rescue services in the UK and provide guidance stating that those who die from COVID-19 should be automatically assumed to have sustained the illness in the performance of their duties.

    There are currently around 48,000 serving firefighters in the UK who are covered by the firefighters’ compensation scheme.

    Other key workers

    The FBU says that such a compensation determination should also be broadened out to include all key workers who become infected and die from COVID-19.

    It should also cover those who have been instructed to continue working by their employer, but who are not in the official list of key workers.

    The government must, therefore, issue similar guidance to all employers in the public and private sector stating that in the case of any worker who dies or suffers long-term damage from COVID-19, it must be treated as arising from their duties.

    If necessary, the government must underwrite the scheme.

    Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, said:

    “Tragically, hundreds of frontline workers have already died from COVID-19, and sadly so will more over the coming days and weeks. Each one of these deaths not only causes heartbreak for loved ones but can also push the families left behind into financial difficulty. The last thing they need is to fight a battle for compensation.

    “For firefighters, their regular work with the public puts them at an increased risk of COVID-19 infection, a risk heightened by the additional work they are doing in the response to the crisis, which now includes the movement of bodies, transporting of infected patients and delivering of vital food and medicines.

    “There is sadly a real chance that firefighters will die, and that’s why we are calling on the government to urgently instruct all fire and rescue services to treat any death from COVID-19 as being caused by their work, making families automatically eligible for a payment under the firefighters’ compensation scheme.

    “This instruction must also be broadened out to include all key workers, both in the public and private sector. Those not deemed key workers, but who have been obliged to continue attending work by their employer, must also be covered. Any compensation arrangements must not prevent families from taking further legal action against employers who have jeopardised the safety of their workers.

    “This crisis has demonstrated clearly who the key workers are in our society. And there can be no doubt that nurses, doctors, refuse collectors, bus drivers, firefighters, carers, and many more, have gone over and above to keep all of us safe – and the country running. The government must now promise to do its bit to keep all of their families safe and secure into the future.”

    Media contacts

    Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

    FBU press office
    press@fbu.org,uk

    Notes

    Not all firefighters are in the firefighters’ pension schemes. Firefighters who are not in the firefighters pension scheme do not receive a death in service benefit unless they qualify under the firefighters’ compensation scheme i.e died as a result of a work-related injury/ illness/ disease. By making a clear compensation determination, the government would ensure those not in the pension scheme are also financially supported.

    The letter to the Prime Minister is available here: LETTER TO THE RT HON BORIS JOHNSON MP FROM FBU GENERAL SECRETARY MATT WRACK – 28 APRIL 2020.pdf

    The FBU is aware of 4 firefighter deaths in Italy and 9 firefighter deaths in the United States due to COVID-19

    On Monday 13 April, the FBU criticised the Westminster government for failing to commit to testing firefighters, as services lose around 3,000 staff to coronavirus self-isolation.

    Firefighters can now construct vital protective face shields for NHS and care staff, drive ambulances in parts of the country, will also now begin transferring both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients from Nightingale hospitals, after the latest agreement between the FBU, fire chiefs, and National Employers: https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2020/04/24/firefighters-make-face-shields-health-and-care-staff-and-transfer-patients-and

    Under previous agreements, firefighters are now permitted to assist ambulance services in some specified activities and drive ambulances; deliver food and medicines to vulnerable people; and, in the case of mass casualties due to COVID-19, move dead bodies. In the West Midlands and parts of the East Midlands, body movement work has now begun.

    Firefighters can also fit face masks and deliver vital PPE and medical supplies to NHS and care staff; take samples for COVID-19 antigen tests; drive ambulances to non-emergency outpatient appointments and to transport those in need of urgent care; and to train non-emergency service personnel to drive ambulances: https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2020/04/16/coronavirus-firefighters-now-allowed-carry-out-antigen-tests

    The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is the professional and democratic voice of firefighters and other workers within fire and rescue services across the UK. The general secretary is Matt Wrack

    The FBU is on Twitter: @fbunational and Facebook: facebook.com/FireBrigadesUnion1918

    Comments Off on All COVID-19 key worker deaths must be recognised as work-related, union says
    • Plans include major cuts to fire engines and staffing levels
    • FBU says it amounts to a ‘betrayal’ of firefighters and the public

    Firefighters have warned of a major threat to public safety as politicians and fire chiefs try to sneak through cuts to the fire and rescue services while firefighters respond to the coronavirus crisis.

    The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) made the comments after a consultation on sweeping fire and rescue cuts was launched mid-pandemic.

    The union has called out the Prime Minister and other government ministers for clapping key workers on a Thursday while turning a blind eye to brutal cuts to a frontline emergency service.

    Firefighters have agreed to take on sweeping new duties to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, including moving dead bodies, driving ambulances, and producing PPE, at the request of the government and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC).

    But East Sussex’s Conservative-controlled fire authority has decided to consult the public on sweeping cuts to the county’s fire service, detailed in an Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) drawn up by Chief Fire Officer Dawn Whittaker and senior managers before the coronavirus outbreak.

    The proposals include major cuts to the number of fire engines, staffing levels, and nighttime fire cover.

    The proposals include

    • Cutting 10 fire engines across the county from Battle, Bexhill, Crowborough, Lewes, Newhaven, Rye, Uckfield, Seaford, Heathfield and Wadhurst stations;
    • Cutting dedicated crews for high-reaching aerial fire appliance
    • Cutting wholetime staffing  levels across the county, particularly at stations in Lewes, Newhaven, Uckfield, Crowborough, Battle and Bexhill stations
    • Reducing night time fire cover at The Ridge fire station

    The FBU has accused fire chiefs and politicians of using the cover of the pandemic to sneak through the plans and has warned the public that this could be the first of many attempts to rush through decisions on cuts to services whilst attention is elsewhere.

    Since 2011, fire and rescue services in the UK have had 11,500 firefighters cut from their staff, and since 2013 have seen real-terms spending on their service slashed by 38%.

    In neighbouring Surrey, the FBU agreed to suspend planned industrial action so that firefighters could help communities through the crisis.

    Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

    “The Prime Minister and other government ministers are asking people to clap for frontline workers on a Thursday, while their policies continue gutting frontline services. It’s shameless hypocrisy.

    “While firefighters are taking on sweeping new areas of work to keep their communities safe, they have been completely betrayed by fire chiefs and politicians.

    “Frankly, we don’t know what the world will look like on the other side of this pandemic. Across the political spectrum, people are crying out that we cannot go back to normal – and that has to mean an end to brutal cuts to frontline services.

    “We have entered national negotiations in good faith to help communities through this crisis. If politicians and the NFCC want that to continue, they need to step in and stop these cuts.

    “This could be the first of many attempts to sneak through cuts to services while the public focuses on the pandemic. If politicians think they are going to make public services pay for this crisis, then they are sadly mistaken.”

    Simon Herbert, East Sussex firefighter and FBU brigade chair, said:

    “Firefighters are out on the frontline helping our communities through this crisis whilst still responding to fires and other emergencies.

    “Meanwhile, our fire authority has thanked us by beginning the process of decimating our emergency response capabilities and ability to save lives, all from the safety of their living rooms.

    “These proposals are dangerous and will seriously damage the availability of fire crews throughout East Sussex. These proposals deserve proper public scrutiny – not an ill-thought-out consultation process snuck out in the middle of the pandemic.”

    National media contacts

    Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

    FBU press office
    press@fbu.org.uk

     

    • On Saturday, Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said in an interview with BBC News: “”It’s great that people are going out and clapping on a Thursday night, but the question will be – because clapping is not enough – what are we going to do as a society to redress the balance a bit and give recognition?”: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-52403609
    • The draft IRMP for East Sussex fire and rescue service 2020-2025, detailing cuts to the service, is available here: https://esfrs.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s1027/200423%20CFA%20IRMP%202020-25%20REPORT.pdf
    • The agenda from the East Sussex fire authority meeting is available here: https://esfrs.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=136&MId=333&Ver=4
    • Firefighters can now construct vital protective face shields for NHS and care staff, drive ambulances in parts of the country, will also now begin transferring both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients from Nightingale hospitals, after the latest agreement between the FBU, the NFCC, and National Employers: https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2020/04/24/firefighters-make-face-shields-health-and-care-staff-and-transfer-patients-and
    • Under previous agreements, firefighters are now permitted to assist ambulance services in some specified activities and drive ambulances; deliver food and medicines to vulnerable people; and, in the case of mass casualties due to COVID-19, move dead bodies. In the West Midlands and parts of the East Midlands, body movement work has now begun.
    • Firefighters can also fit face masks and deliver vital PPE and medical supplies to NHS and care staff; take samples for COVID-19 antigen tests; drive ambulances to non-emergency outpatient appointments and to transport those in need of urgent care; and to train non-emergency service personnel to drive ambulances: https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2020/04/16/coronavirus-firefighters-now-allowed-carry-out-antigen-tests
    • The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) is the professional and democratic voice of firefighters and other workers within fire and rescue services across the UK. The general secretary is Matt Wrack
    • The FBU is on Twitter: @fbunational and Facebook: facebook.com/FireBrigadesUnion1918
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    Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced that firefighters, police, prison staff and Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) workers will now be eligible for coronavirus testing, in a session of the Health and Social Care Committee.

    Responding to the announcement, Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary, said:

    ‘We’re pleased to see that the government has listened to the FBU and finally agreed to open up some testing to other key workers, including fire and rescue personnel. However, it is a shame it has come this late, with thousands of firefighters already self-isolating – this is something that could have been easily avoided.

    ‘We are awaiting further details but it is clear that there are questions around the functioning of the scheme that is now open to more key workers . The health secretary said fewer NHS staff were coming forward to be tested than hoped, but this is surely an issue of accessibility, rather than frontline staff not wanting to be tested. Many of the testing centres are far out of town and require extended trips in a car – if this is a barrier to nursing staff, it will also be a barrier to other key workers.

    “It is also clear that this testing scheme will only identify the virus in those individuals presenting symptoms or living with others who are. Many key workers who have been exposed through their work will have contracted the virus yet remain asymptomatic. Frequent and accessible testing of key workers who are at high risk of exposure is also needed to reduce the risk of spread in workplaces.

    “To ensure that fire and rescue services, and other vital services can continue to operate in this crisis, we don’t just need access to these testing schemes, but to also see the capacity of the schemes themselves increase. There need to be more tests available full stop.”

    Joe Karp-Sawey, FBU communications officer

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