Many of you will have seen reports in the media that thousands of firefighters are about to be sacked:
Just to be clear the fire service has not issued notices on anyone and not made anyone redundant, and we are presently in a consultation period.
We have merely agreed, as an Authority, to slightly change the shift pattern for firefighters - whereby we propose to reduce the night shift from 13 and half hours to 12 hours and increase the day shift from 10 and half hours to 12 hours. By having equal length 12 hour shifts enables flexibility to have more firefighters and fire engines on the run at the peak demand of incidents which occur during the day time and evenings - The least busy time for incidents and call out times is during the night shift.
Due to Government cuts to GM Fire Authority we have had to make savings of £28m over the last 6 years, which has resulted in over 400 firefighters posts being lost (We have also significantly cut the back office).
We now face a further Gov cut of more than £14m over the next 4 years, which will result in a further loss of 253 firefighter posts (and further cuts to back office staff)
The severity of the cuts means we simply cannot stay as we are and we have to make changes if we want to keep the people of Greater Manchester as safe as we possibly can.
The new proposed shift pattern will actually mean fewer firefighter posts need to be lost compared to keeping the same shift pattern as we have at present. (the present shift system would mean a loss of 285 firefighter posts).
Under the severe financial restraints we find ourselves in, the new shift pattern will mean the fire service can provide a better and safer service to the people of Greater Manchester than sticking with the present shift pattern.
The discussions with the FBU and firefighters started at the back end of last year regarding this matter when we were informed by Government of the further severe cuts to our budget. The Official negotiations started early in January with the FBU. Unfortunately the FBU flatly refused to engage with talks on the new proposed shift pattern - They have made it crystal clear they want to maintain the present shift pattern, and over the six month period of negotiation their position has never shifted.
For your information a 12 hour shift pattern is acceptable within the Terms & Conditions of the Grey Book, yet the Greater Manchester FBU refuse to discuss any change to a new 12 hour shift system here. Also it is interesting to note the 12 hour shift system is worked in other Fire Authorities, for instance in Merseyside and Cheshire.
GMFRA is a good employer who cares deeply about all our employees. In these horrendous times of severe Government cuts we have managed to have no forced redundancies or station closures.
I and the Fire Authority has opposed austerity measures for the fire service - we have tirelessly lobbied Government not to make these cuts. I personally have lobbied Leaders, MPs, Ministers, Civil Servants and others to stop the cuts. Unfortunately the Tory Government has not listened.
Finally, I have a duty to keep the public as safe as I possibly can and also remain a good employer for all our staff in these extremely difficult times. This I will continue to do.
I hope this explains the situation to you. However please do not hesitate to contact me if you need to do so.
Cllr David Acton