Firefighters across the UK have voted to walk out in a dispute about pay, in the first national strikes in the fire service since 2003.
In aggregated ballots in England, Scotland and Wales, 88% of FBU members voted to strike. In Northern Ireland, 94% voted for strike action, while in a separate ballot of North West Fire Control, 80% voted in favour of a strike.
Mark Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said all three strike ballots had exceeded the threshold required. The main ballot attracted a 73% turnout.
“The results confirm the level of anger and determination that our members have over the falling pay that we have experienced over the past 12 years,” he said.
Firefighters strike 2023
However, Wrack said that the FBU’s executive council decided over a week ago that it would not call strike action immediately.
He said the union had written to fire service employers and the UK government seeking a meeting of the National Joint Council for Local Authority Fire and Rescue Services and that the FBU would delay the calling of strike action by 10 days in order to allow employers to consider the outcome of today’s vote.
That meeting will take place on 8 February 2023, and strike action will not be announced until 9 February at the earliest.
“My message to the fire service employers is this. Don’t waste that opportunity. Firefighters don’t want to see a strike, firefighters want to see a resolution to this dispute, but the only way that can be achieved is by receiving through the National Joint Council a new and significantly improved pay offer that our executive council is willing to put to our members for their consideration.”
FBU members have already rejected a below-inflation 5% pay offer in November last year, and the union opened its formal strike ballot last month. Since 2010, the FBU says firefighters have suffered a 12% drop in real-terms pay – worth around £4,000 on average – and that in the same period, around one in five firefighter jobs have been cut.
Polling by YouGov has shown that public support for strike action by firefighters is strong with 58% of people backing action, while 33% oppose it.
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