Crucial negotiations on fire service pay are set to take place today (Wednesday February 8).
It comes as new Home Office figures show fire service crews attended a record 195,000 non-fire incidents last year such as road crashes and flooding, including 2,408 in the Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service region.
A meeting of the National Joint Council (NJC) is expected to discuss a new pay offer from Fire Service employers today.
It follows the result of last week’s strike ballot, in which a resounding 88 per cent of firefighters voted for action on a 73 per cent turnout.
The Fire Brigades Union hopes to resolve the dispute without a strike, and has given employers an additional 10 days to come forward with a significantly improved offer.
However, if talks fail, strike dates are expected to be announced tomorrow (Thursday, February 9).
Firefighters rejected a five per cent pay offer in November, and moved to ballot for strike action in December.
Commenting ahead of the talks, Fire Brigades Union General Secretary Matt Wrack, said: “The strength of feeling among firefighters is clear, with an 88 per cent vote in favour of strikes by FBU members, and 94 per cent in Northern Ireland.
“That’s one of the biggest mandates for industrial action by a trade union in recent years.
“The reason for that massive vote to strike is simple. Firefighters are dealing with financial hardship and the growing threat of ‘in work’ poverty, with a real terms cut to their wages.They are struggling to pay the bills during the cost-of-living crisis that this government is presiding over.
“Going on strike is an absolute last resort for firefighters.However, this action can still be avoided if the employers make an offer which addresses the concerns of firefighters
“The FBU is adopting an open-minded and constructive approach to the talks today, having already delayed strike action by 10 days to allow employers to meet us.
“Industrial action is not inevitable if the employers genuinely engage with the FBU about the anger among firefighters about poverty pay and improve their offer to address our concerns.
“However, firefighters will not be messed about, and the government and employers cannot ride roughshod over the 88 per cent vote for strikes by FBU members.
“If there is no significant shift from the employers, then strikes will be announced tomorrow (Thursday).
“The responsibility for any disruption to services would then firmly lie with fire service employers and government ministers for not delivering a serious pay offer.”
The strike talks today follow on from Monday’s national stike which saw thousands of NHS staff across England calling on the government to talk to union chiefs to avoid further action. Teaching staff, civil servants and train drivers are also due to go on strike today.
New Home Office figures show fire services attended 16,000 flooding incidents in 2021-22 – up from 14,900, including 210 flooding incidents resulting in five deaths in the HWFRS area.