Employers favour fire modernisation

Plans
to establish a modern fire and rescue service set out in a government White
Paper last week have been welcomed by employers.

It
incorporates many of the proposals recommended by Sir George Bain in his report
produced during the drawn-out dispute over fire service pay.

These
include plans to introduce more family-friendly shift patterns, bring in
voluntary overtime and modernise the disputes and disciplinary arrangements.

Other
proposals would see the introduction of a new integrated personnel development
system (IPDS) to boost training and promotion, plus reform of the terms and
conditions of retained (part-time) firefighters.

Deputy
Prime Minister John Prescott warned that up to 6,000 firefighters would lose
their jobs as part of the changes, but stressed there would be no compulsory
redundancies.

Peter
Brook, head of personnel at Greater Manchester County Fire Service, believes
the modernisation programme presents a significant opportunity for HR in terms
of change management and helping fire service personnel develop the soft skills
they need to make the changes work.

He
believes the IPDS will identify development needs and help modernise pay so it
is based more on role rather than rank. Brook also thinks that more flexible
working patterns will help attract a more diverse workforce to the fire
service.

Carol
McCletchie, director of HR at Cleveland Fire Brigade, agrees the IPDS will
prove an extremely useful tool in modernising working practices.

"We
will be better able to attract recognise, develop and reward talented people
both from within and outside," she said. McCletchie also welcomed changes
to shift patterns.

General
secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Andy Gilchrist said the White Paper would
be discussed by the union’s executive council at its meeting this week (8-10
July). He said the union would oppose any job losses.

By
Ben Willmott

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