FBU conference rebukes leadership over lost payments scandal

ON TUESDAY (10 May), the FBU’s annual conference debated a resolution, moved by the West Yorkshire delegation, instructing the union’s leadership to take heed of important rulings from employment tribunals and, where the rulings potentially benefit members, raise them with national employers with a view to ensuring consistent implementation across all local fire and rescue services.

The resolution, which won the resounding support of conference, was prompted by the scandal, uncovered by this blog, of local fire and rescue services denying firefighters around £9m in enhanced holiday payments following widespread failures to implement the ruling from a pivotal employment tribunal case – Bear (Scotland) v Fulton – in 2014.

Many firefighters will have lost around £1,000 individually as a consequence of these failures.

This blog also showed how FBU leaders had failed to properly pursue the matter, despite having been told by lawyers in 2016 that firefighters stood to benefit from the ruling. Even after we wrote to the assistant general secretary of the union last year with our revelations, nothing appears to have been done.

All of this led to an inconsistent mish-mash of arrangements across the UK fire and rescue service, with many local employers failing to implement the ruling at all, and others doing so late or incorrectly. The upshot was that thousands of FBU members paid the price.

This was in stark contrast to arrangements in other industries, including the police service, where the employees’ body – the Police Federation – reached an agreement with national police chiefs on how the ruling would be applied locally.

Speakers in Tuesday’s conference debate made it clear that the FBU leadership must get a grip on these issues in future, and not leave local officials to do their work.

Conference has spoken, and it is important now that the union’s leaders learn lessons from the affair. They must immediately (if they have not done so already) raise the Bear (Scotland) v Fulton outcome at the National Joint Council. Where applicable, arrears payments should be sought for those firefighters who have lost out. An overarching national agreement should be reached on how the ruling will be implemented in local fire and rescue services.

As the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, it is crucial that outstanding monies are put into the pockets of firefighters at the earliest opportunity.

And these failings must never happen again.

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