Are firefighters going on strike 2023? When is Fire Brigades Union ballot on strikes, are walkout dates known

Firefighters backed strike action, with 88% voting yes on a 73% turnout

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Firefighters are set to stage a nationwide strike in a dispute over pay for the first time since 2003.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) for firefighters and control room staff voted for action in a ballot that closed on today (30 January) after staff experienced what they say is a cut in real-terms pay.

Firefighters backed strike action, with 88% voting yes on a 73% turnout. The union has said it has given the government and employers 10 days to come up with an improved offer in an effort to avoid walkouts.

Firefighters previously took strike action in 2015  over changes to their pensions Firefighters previously took strike action in 2015  over changes to their pensions
Firefighters previously took strike action in 2015 over changes to their pensions

Why did firefighters ballot to strike? 

The union said that since 2010, firefighters have experienced a 12% drop in real terms earnings which is around £4,000 a year on average. In the same period, around one in five firefighter jobs have been cut.

According to the union, the vote on industrial action comes as fresh research by the FBU and UCLan shows that firefighters with 15 years of service are 1.7 times more likely to develop cancer than those who have served less time.

The FBU has already rejected a below-inflation 5% pay offer in November last year, and the union opened its formal strike ballot on 5 December. The union previously said the ballot will only give a mandate for strike action if more than 50% of the FBU’s roughly 30,000 members vote in it.

Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “Firefighters across the UK have spoken. The Fire Brigades Union has a decisive mandate for strike action.

He added: "This is an absolute last resort for our members. The responsibility for any disruption to services lies squarely with fire service employers and government ministers.

"Our members risk their health and safety, and sometimes their lives, round the clock to keep people safe and serve their communities. However, with inflation and energy bills rocketing, they are now increasingly struggling to pay the bills or to afford the basics.

"The government and the employers have the power to stop strikes from happening by making a credible offer that can resolve this dispute. The ball is in their court. We have delayed calling strikes to allow the employers to meet us and to make a new offer. I hope they take that opportunity. Otherwise, in the coming weeks, we intend to announce a series of strike dates and industrial action."

FBU members vote on strike action join the growing number of sectors taking action in the UK. To prevent a fresh wave of strike action, Downing Street has urged unions to “step back”.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We still believe there is time for unions to step back and to call on their members not to strike and avoid the sort of disruption we are expecting to see this week, particularly on Wednesday.“We think the continuing discussions are the right approach and we’d like to see them continue.”

The official said that any pay increases for public sector workers would have to come from “taxation or borrowing”.

What dates will firefighters be striking? 

The ballot to take industrial action opened on 5 December 2022 and will close today (30 January 2023). More than 33,000 firefighters and control room staff can vote.

As the Fire Brigades Union ballot closed on 30 January, there won’t be any walkouts until at least 7 February - as unions have to give a minimum of seven days’ notice. The union has also given the government 10 days to strike an improved offer. However, this article will be updated with the strike dates once they have been announced.

When was the last firefighters’ strike?

Firefighters previously took national strike action from 2002-2003, as the FBU voted to strike over a pay dispute. The union asked for a 39% increase in pay and balloted its members for industrial action in November 2022.

Members went on to have a two-day strike on 13 November 2002, and further action was planned. However, after a few weeks of negotiations, the FBU settled for 16%. A series of one-day strikes were held in England between 2013 and 2015 in defence of pensions too.

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