By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
A union leader says Firefighters in Nottinghamshire will join strikes if a pay resolution isn’t found with the Government – but crews would still respond to major incidents if action goes ahead.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) confirmed national plans for industrial action this week after rejecting a five per cent pay award from ministers.
More than 80 per cent of FBU members voted in favour of the walk-out but no strike dates have yet been announced.
The union will meet with fire service employers – the brigades and rescue services in England – on February 8 before any announcements are made.
The FBU says it hopes to receive a revised pay offer by this date, with the East Midlands branch secretary hoping it will be “something close to inflation”.
The union says its members have experienced a 12 per cent drop in real terms earnings since 2010.
In the same period, the FBU says about one in five firefighter jobs have been cut nationally.
The vote on Monday (January 30) came after firefighters were initially offered a two per cent increase.
This raise, which the East Midlands FBU says had “angered our members”, was later increased to five per cent before being rejected again.
Of the 73 per cent of FBU members who voted in the ballot, 88 per cent of staff voted to take action.
But Mark Stilwell, regional chair of the East Midlands FBU, says the union hopes a walk-out will not be necessary.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We definitely don’t want to strike.
“We’ve given employers loads of time to negotiate. We’ve extended our time and given them another week for this meeting on February 8.
“Our plan is to give them as much time as possible to come up with a solution before we have to take any industrial action.
“We need to get an offer that is acceptable to the membership. I can’t put a figure on it but it has to be something close to inflation.
“The resounding ballot and a mandate from membership mean we’re in a strong position.”
He admitted a walk-out “would cause disruption” but said the FBU has agreed firefighters would return from picket lines to respond to major incidents.
“There’s always going to be disruption but this will be minimised,” he added.
“However, we don’t want it to get to that point.”
If firefighters do go on strike, it will be the first time they had walked out over pay since 2003.
A separate strike, in 2014, was held following disputes over the Firefighters’ Pension Scheme.
Trainee firefighters in Nottinghamshire currently earn £24,191 upon starting the role, rising to £32,244 when fully qualified.
Crew manager salaries are capped at £35,747, while watch managers and station managers earn a maximum of £39,974 and £45,861 respectively.
The union expects further details on the industrial action to be provided following the meeting next week.
However, the Government has urged firefighters not to walk out.
“I think strike action would be disappointing and concerning for the public,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said on Monday.
“We will continue to work with that union to see what we can do to mitigate against the possible risks that that poses – and in the first instance call on them to reconsider and keep negotiating.”
Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service has been approached for a comment.