Fire Brigades Union will strike for 24 hours from 0900 on 9th December 2014 to 0900 on 10th December 2014 over pensions dispute
Present (Consultation and Negotiation Sub-Committee, 4 out of 5 councillors were present, quorum is two):
Cllr Jimmy Mahon (Labour, Chair)
Cllr Leslie T Byrom (Labour)
Cllr Linda Maloney (Labour)
Cllr Tony Robertson (Lib Dem opposition spokesperson)
Dan Stephens (Chief Fire Officer)
Phil Garrigan (Deputy Chief Fire Officer)
Janet Henshaw (Clerk to the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority and Monitoring Officer)
Fire Brigade Union guy 1
Fire Brigade Union guy 2
Union guy 3
Union guy 4
Two members of the public (of which the author of this blog post John Brace is one)
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The Chair started the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meeting by stating in the event of a fire alarm sounding where the nearest fire exits were and people were to assemble at the assembly point across the car park in the event of a fire. Smoking would not be permitted during the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority meeting and the toilets were further down the corridor on the opposite side to the meeting room.
If anyone was requested to leave the meeting for whatever reason, recording was to not continue outside the room. He asked people not to leave on display anything that was private or confidential items on display.
There were no exempt items on the agenda for this meeting so the press and public wouldn’t be asked to leave. He asked if any of the two “observers” present had any objections to being filmed (one of whom is the person writing this). Neither of us (including myself) did. He asked people to have their mobile phones on silent, told people he was Councillor Mahon and declared the meeting open.
1. Preliminary Matters
An apology was given by Cllr Tony Robertson for Cllr Lesley Rennie.
An apology was given by the Chair for the Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan.
The Deputy Chief Fire Officer pointed out he was present.
No declarations of interest were made.
There were no items that the press and public would be excluded for.
2. Minutes of Previous Meeting
The minutes of the meeting of the consultation and negotiation sub-committee meeting of the 2nd September 2014 (the blog post Labour councillors blame government for strikes in 1st ever film of a Merseyside Fire Authority meeting refers to this meeting) were agreed.
3. Industrial Relations Update
The Chief Fire Officer, Dan Stephens introduced his report (CFO/124/14) on matters of negotiation and consultation with the trade unions since the last meeting on 2nd September 2014.
He referred to 45 service instructions issued since 2nd September, most had been agreed but nine were outstanding. Dan Stephens referred to the ongoing talks with the Fire Brigades Union and that the Fire Brigades Union did not agree with the health and fitness instruction as well as an ongoing national dispute. However there had been talks in London on the 10th and 11th of September and a further meeting in Liverpool on the 29th September.
The Chief Fire Officer on behalf of the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service thanked Phil, Mark and Kevin for getting to the point where they had reached an agreement.
He referred to paragraphs 10 and 11 of his report about 24-hour shifts, the impact of station mergers versus outright closure and the mitigation he had recommended to the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. With regards to the pensions dispute it was outside his influence and totally outside his sphere of control, however he hoped to maintain constructive dialogue and Merseyside was testament to strong industrial relations between the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority.
There was notification by the Fire Brigades Union of a 24 hour strike from 0900 on the 9th December 2014 to 0900 on the 10th December 2014. An Early Day Motion by Hilary Benn MP had attracted 236 signatures so far. However the pension regulations had been laid before parliament and the 40-day period would conclude on the 11th December 2014, which was the reason for the timing of the notification of industrial action by the Fire Brigades Union.
If the pension regulations were agreed by Parliament they would come into effect on the 1st April 2015. He said he would take any questions.
The Fire Brigades Union representative referred to the service instructions and the enormous body of work it had entailed. They had put it forward to the national Fire Brigades Union to be recognised as a template. He agreed with the Chief Fire Officer that it was much better to have an agreed outcomes and agreed introduction.
He referred to the policies about aiding sick and injured firefighters rather than punitively punishing them and accepted the reassurances about the issue of 24-hour working. Rather than death by a thousand cuts, he wanted to deal with the issues now to give a relative period of stability moving forward. Finally he pointed out to everyone at the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service that it was a national pensions dispute and he wanted to reiterate that there was excellent industrial relations locally in that they could talk about thorny issues without either side finding it offensive.
Cllr Maloney said that as an Authority they hadn’t got a clue as to what was going to happen.
Cllr Byrom said that during the strike period relationships on Merseyside had been cordial. Other authorities hadn’t seen this so he was grateful. He said that they “stand on the brink of considerable change”. In the tours they had been doing of fire stations, he’d been able to say to firefighters and members of the public it’s not the cheapest way of working but a better way of working to retain a full-time method of operation.
If they lost control of the agenda, the way to save money would be to move to retained. He said, “We don’t want that.” However, working closely with the staff and the public they serve, he wanted to put forward the message that it was safe, a good speed of response, a good weight of response and that the crews when they get there were prepared and trained.
The representative of the Fire Officers Association referred to the financial difficulties, the staffing model and how everyone was integral to providing an emergency service. He too referred to the 24-hour shift system. On the pensions issue he said that the government wasn’t moving and that they had got to persuade ministers and civil servants as there were issues that hadn’t been fully considered by the government.
He wanted (in reflection of the 236 MPs that had signed an Early Day Motion) a debate, otherwise there was something seriously wrong with politics. The union representative suggested that they address their MPs and ask them to sign the Early Day Motion apart from the one who is a government minister.
Referring to the MP for Wirral West, the Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, he said that she, “certainly doesn’t seem to live in the real world, doesn’t seem to want to know the impact of the cuts that are happening on this [Merseyside Fire and Rescue] Service”.
Although the Fire Brigades Union had said not to respond to the Adrian Thomas review of conditions of service and questionnaire, he had seen a tweet from the Deputy General Secretary encouraging members to respond to this. He had retweeted it, because he thought it was important as it affects all members.
He wanted Adrian Thomas as the independent person undertaking the review to fully understand and appreciate the concerns and issues of members. Looking forward to the budget proposals in February, the mergers were the big issue, he wanted to make sure that any cuts protected the frontline.
Cllr Tony Robertson (Lib Dem opposition spokesperson) that he agreed over the fulltime issue. He referred to his union background as a branch secretary and how there was a huge amount of respect on both sides. Although he was only a recently appointed member of the Fire Authority, he had read about it prior to becoming a member. He said that industrial relations were a hugely important issue as poor industrial relations would lead to a poor service. Cllr Robertson also said he had “no enthusiasm for city region government”.
The Chair referred to the disputes from 2003 and the £100,000 cost of getting the Green Goddess and how in the past the trade unions had told them what to do and how bad it was in the past. He compared how it was in 2003 to the improved industrial relations in 2014.
The Chief Fire Officer said to respond to Cllr Hanratty, that all MPs on Merseyside, bar the MP for Wirral West had signed the Early Day Motion, which included the Rt Hon John Pugh MP for Southport who is a member of the coalition.
The recommendations were agreed. The Chair said that the next meeting would be the 24th March 2015, he thanked people for their attendance and wished people a safe journey.
I’ve started a petition calling on the Mersey Fire and Rescue Authority to delete the part of its constitution that requires permission to film each public meeting following the legal change in August 2014. Please if you agree with it then sign it.
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