Contingency Planning Arrangements for Industrial Action in the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
1. Pay and Conditions of Services in the Fire and Rescue Service in the UK are negotiated through a long-standing system of collective bargaining. The National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services (NJC) is the body that sets the pay and the conditions of service of Grey Book (Uniformed) employees (other than those in Brigade Management roles) of fire and rescue services established under the Fire and Rescue Services Act 2004 (for England and Wales), the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 (the Act) and the Fire and Rescue Services (Northern Ireland) Order 2006. The principal purpose of the NJC is to reach agreement on a national framework of pay and conditions for local application throughout the Fire and Rescue Service in the UK.
2. The parties to the negotiation are categorised as the Employers' Side and the Employees' Side. The Employers' Side comprises representatives of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and all other Fire and Rescue Service' in the UK. The Employees' Side includes representatives of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), which represents the majority of firefighters in the UK. All prospective pay awards are put forward by the Employers' Side and are considered by the FBU.
3. In November 2022, the NJC Employers' Side revised their initial pay offer of 2% and proposed a new offer of 5% backdated to July 2022. As part of ongoing national pay negotiations, members of the FBU rejected the pay offer via a consultative members ballot. As a result of this decision the FBU raised a formal 'Registration of Trades Dispute' with a notice of ballot for strike action across the UK. The ballot for strike action opened on 5 December 2022 and closed on 30 January 2023. The strike ballot returned a mandate for strike action; 83% voted Yes with a turnout of 73% of FBU members.
4. Subsequently, following joint discussions at an NJC meeting convened on 8 February 2023, the national employers put forward a revised pay offer to the FBU of 7% backdated to July 2022 and a further 5% payable from July 2023. The Executive Council of the FBU unanimously recommended that its members accept this revised pay offer, and to that end a consultative ballot commenced on 20 February 2023. The consultative ballot results confirming acceptance of the offer were published on 6 March 2023.
5. The fieldwork for this inspection was undertaken between 1 December 2022 and 9 February 2023; at a time when Industrial Action (IA) by SFRS firefighters was a possibility. At that time, the February 2023 pay offer from the NJC remained under consideration and was the subject of an FBU ballot. Whilst we accept that the situation has changed and welcome the fact that IA has been avoided, we believe there is still value in considering those IA arrangements that were in place and those that remained under development. As such, we have taken the decision to publish this report and associated recommendations in a bid to learn valuable lessons for the future.