A CONSULTATIVE BALLOT is about to begin, asking FBU members whether they wish to accept the recommendations of the chair of the Resolution Advisory Panel as a means to settling the current industrial dispute in relation to the threat of mass sackings and changes to shift times. The union is urging all members to vote in the ballot.
Here, we give answers to some frequently-asked questions.
What is the Resolution Advisory Panel?
The Resolution Advisory Panel (or ‘Rap’) is part of the fire service national disputes procedure. It is a body comprised of three members—a senior representative of the FBU, a senior representative of the national employers, and an independent chair, Professor William Brown.
It’s purpose is to find resolutions to disputes that occur in fire and rescue services up and down the UK.
The panel hears evidence from all parties, and, where agreement cannot be reached, the chair of the panel will make a recommendation.
Is the outcome binding?
No, the recommendation is not binding. The parties are free to accept or reject the recommendation.
What was the panel asked to consider?
The panel was asked to look at two issues: (a) working patterns for operational staff, and (b) the brigade’s proposals to convert around 40 non-operational employees to non-uniformed FRS conditions.
What did Professor Brown recommend?
In respect of working patterns for operational staff, Professor Brown recommended the following two options:
Within the 2-2-4 shift pattern, the day shift should be 11 hours and the night shift should be 13 hours, with start times of 0900 hours and 2000 hours respectively. In addition, the following sections set out in the authority’s draft proposals of 22 October 2010 should apply:
• brigade medical appointments
• buying back of leave
• partial mutual exchange of duty and flexible relief from duty
• off-duty personnel staying at stations
Within the 2-2-4 shift pattern, the day shift should be 10.5 hours and the night shift should be 13.5 hours, with start times of 0930 hours and 2000 hours respectively. In addition, the position set out in the authority’s draft proposals of 22 October 2010 in respect of direct standbys should apply, modified in respect of distance to 7.5 miles.
Professor Brown recognised that the changes proposed by the brigade were of a contractual nature, and went on to say that: “…employees should be consulted by the union through a robust mechanism on which of the two options is the most preferable”.
In respect of the conversion of uniformed non-operational firefighters to non-uniformed FRS conditions of service, Professor Brown recommended that where conversions do take place there should be a period of three years’ pay protection for those whose salaries were adversely affected, and that the FBU would not have collective bargaining rights for FRS staff.
Are members entitled to vote to reject the entire document?
Yes, the ballot paper will provide an opportunity to vote ‘no’ to all of Professor Brown’s recommendations.
What would be the implications of a ‘no’ vote?
In the event of a ‘no’ vote, the ball would be in the brigade’s court. They may well decide to press on with termination of contracts and impose 12-hour shifts, in which case the dispute will continue. This will likely mean the FBU setting further strike dates.
Does the union have a view on how we should vote?
The union is strongly recommending that members the brigade vote to accept the recommendations of Professor Brown, and to vote for option 2 in respect of start and finish times. However, this is only a recommen-dation from the union, and members should feel free to vote in accordance with their own wishes, following careful consideration of the options.
I’m not happy with some aspects of the recommendations. Is any of it open for negotiation?
At this stage, member must vote simply on the recommendations as they are. We cannot guarantee that there will be improvements or amendments to the recommendations, though of course we would be willing to enter into negotiations with the brigade on various issues if our members wish us to do so afte r the ballot.
Will we maintain the existing night-time stand- down period under these recommendations?
Yes. The brigade wanted originally to reduce the current stand-down period to four hours, but Professor Brown did not recommend any change. There fore, the existing stand-down would remain.
When does the ballot close?
These details will be included on the ballot paper. There will also be a pre-paid envelope for members to return their ballot papers to the scrutineer.
Why is the union continuing to take industrial action short of a strike when it has suspended strike action?
Because the dispute which led to that action has not been resolved. Members will also be aware that the brigade refuses to withdraw un-agreed policies, such as policies 251 and 439, and that they continue to insist that crew manager stars agree that they are contractually required to act-up at all times.
Recently, we have seen the brigade make up policy on-the-hoof and shamefully cut corners over health and safety in an attempt to keep appliances and stations on-the-run.
We have seen many members—especially crew managers—bullied into performing tasks well outside of their roles, and those who refuse have seen their pay docked by 20% or more.
What is the union doing to support those who have had pay docked?
We are endeavouring to reimburse all lost monies. Those whose pay has been reduced should contact their local FBU rep for details of the union hardship fund.
The union has also started a legal action against the brigade to recover all deducted monies.
We simply cannot stand by and let the brigade get away with making policy up as it goes along and threatening our members with pay stoppages when they quite legitimately do not comply with unreasonable instructions. If the brigade doesn’t put a stop to these practices, we will see them in court.
IT’S YOUR DECISION PLEASE VOTE