In our previous post, we highlighted comments made by Scottish FBU leaders, which gave us all an insight into their minds and their world – a world that sees them blameless and everyone else at fault; a world that sees it acceptable for them to level personal abuse at anyone who dares to disagree with them; a world where their pursuit of their own personal and political agendas, to the detriment of FBU members best interests, is acceptable and not up for criticism.
Following on from this, a Circular has been issued to all Scottish FBU members from Roddy Robertson, the EC member for Scotland.
The circular is an astonishing read!
Disturbingly, it highlights the fact that Mr Robertson and his minions live in a parallel universe, one where everything in the Scottish Fire Service and the Scottish FBU is wonderful and where they are the saviours of FBU members across a utopian Scotland!
In just a few pages, Mr Robertson has rewritten history, as well as the present, in a futile attempt to portray himself and his minions as an effective and successful team, bringing riches and rewards to FBU members across Scotland!
Unfortunately, for him, his synopsis is nothing more than an insult to the intelligence of every FBU member, who all know exactly what has been going on, as they have been at the receiving end of it and suffered as a consequence of their Scottish representatives’ actions and inactions!
So, let’s look at the world according to Mr Robertson.
He begins his circular by stating that the move to a single service in Scotland “was a political decision supported by Labour, Conservative and the Scottish National Party within their manifesto’s”.
What he failed to mention was that it was the Scottish FBU leaders who unilaterally lobbied the politicians for at least a year before the manifestos were written in order to get the political Parties to support the move to a single service. He also failed to mention that the Labour and SNP manifestos both contained quotes from FBU Scotland calling for support for a single service.
All of this occurred before the political decision was made!
It is also important to point out that apart from the politicians and the Scottish FBU leaders, no one else wanted a single service – no one!
So, the single Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has the finger prints of Mr Robertson and Mr Duffy all over it! Consequently, the responsibility for the detrimental changes that have and continue to take place as a consequence of the formation of the single service, lie squarely at their door!
It is typical, of course, that they try to hide behind others, in this case the politicians, and refuse to take any responsibility for their own actions.
Mr Robertson’s circular then goes on to give similar surreal reflections on past and current issues.
Towards the end, he summarises that “we have achieved a number of major successes” then goes on to list them.
As you will see, they are nothing more than an attempt at applying “Smoke and mirrors” to a series of failures, by putting a completely different slant on the reality of what is going on.
Let’s look at the “major successes” he refers to:
- “no compulsory redundancies”
There have been no “compulsory” redundancies yet, however, plenty of redundancies, which were previously unheard of in the Fire Service in Scotland.
Scottish officials are currently negotiating redundancy packages for control operators, as a consequence of their failure to oppose the closure of five Fire Control Rooms.
Indeed, their first reaction to the news that management were proposing to close Fire Control Rooms, wasn’t to oppose the closures, but to seek redundancy packages (as contained within Mr OBE’s email, previously reported on this Blog).
There have also been a multitude of non uniform redundancies, with more to come. Many uniformed personnel will be expected to undertake the work previously carried out by those redundant non uniformed staff and no doubt without any additional pay!
So redundancies have had and will continue to have a direct and indirect affect on FBU members, compulsory or not!
- “no fire station closures… no loss of any pumps”
They must have forgotten about the busiest single pump fire station in Scotland that covered some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the UK – Parkhead! It was closed with the loss of 28 frontline jobs.
There has also been Appliances lost through the introduction of ARPs and the dual crewing of special appliances, which has led to the downgrading of stations and the reduction of frontline posts across the Service.
Strangely enough, he failed to mention that many stations now have pumps with less firefighters on them and appliances that are now dual crewed, which previously had dedicated crews.
Year three of the five year reform period (2015/16) is the year when it has always been envisaged the cuts will be worse and when frontline resources will be more directly affected.
So, there is much more pain to come!
- “an increase from 2 to 3 for our emergency fire control”
This is the most disgraceful comment of them all and is an insult to FBU members and Fire Control operators in particular!
There are currently eight Fire Control Rooms in Scotland. Five will now be closed, with the loss of many many control operator jobs. The Scottish FBU leaders did nothing to try to save them – nothing!
It was down to the resolve and determination of Control Operators themselves that resulted in convincing the Fire Board to amend management’s proposal to close six Control Rooms, to five.
To try to sell the loss of five Fire Control rooms as an “increase” and consider it a “major success” is absolutely shameful!
- “no change in station duty systems”
The old Strathclyde FRS began the transformation to 5GDS in 2010, which led to the loss of 40 jobs.
It is a well known fact that the Scottish FRS is looking to roll out 5GDS across Scotland. This will see further frontline firefighter jobs lost, which is the main driver for the introduction of 5GDS in the first place.
So duty systems have changed with more changes to come!
- “min crewing of 4 for all RDS appliances”
This was already in place and has been for some considerable time.
- “no cross border involvement during any industrial action by English members”
The fact that FBU members in Scotland should have also been on Strike at the same time as their English and Welsh colleagues is the main issue here.
The decision to conduct a Consultative Ballot and then to lobby members to vote YES, is the biggest single mistake in the pensions dispute. It has caused the biggest split in the Union and will ultimately see the failure of the dispute, leaving the bulk of members having to work until they are 60 years old.
- “an interim fitness policy… no dismissals for failing fitness”
The Scottish FBU leaders have been banging on about how the Scottish Government’s proposals regarding pensions (remember it’s not an “agreement”, it’s not a “deal”, it’s only a proposal) states that anyone who fails the fitness test will either be offered retirement, ill health retirement or re-deployment, and will not be faced with dismissal.
However, the interim fitness policy does contain a facility for management to do just that!
In the list of options, management can treat an individual’s failure to pass the fitness test as “a performance issue”, which opens the door to the discipline process and capability!
So, the Scottish Government have an offer on the table to remove the threat of dismissals, yet the Scottish FBU leaders have went on to negotiate an interim policy with management that includes it!
- “2 recruits courses last year and one planned for this year”
This is completely inadequate and a drop in the ocean to what is actually required. These courses do not even match the number of people retiring, never mind make up the shortfall of well over 100 frontline jobs that require to be filled.
So, the one course planned for this year will need to have about 200 recruits on it! Otherwise, it will be completely insufficient!
- “reduction in overtime to NJC level”
The lifting of the overtime ban after the national pay dispute in 2002/3 opened the door to Fire and Rescue Service to reduce establishments. Since then jobs have been lost and those left have worked additional hours to cover the shortfall.
Whether people like it or not, overtime is here to stay.
The key way to reduce it is to employ enough people to fill the vacant posts, but that’s not going to happen. The cuts are taking us in the opposite direction. As stated above, there aren’t anywhere near enough recruits being employed in order to bring the establishment back up to full compliment.
Financially, it is more cost effective to have a reduced establishment and use overtime to cover the shortfall, so there is simply no incentive for management and employers to employ more personnel.
So how else can the overtime budget be cut?
Well, increasing dual crewing across the Service is one way, but the most effective will be to reduce the crewing levels.
As we already know, the Scottish officials are in the process of agreeing to just that! The unelected Mr Chaudhry is leading the charge for FBU Scotland to reduce the crewing levels in the Strathclyde area, which would see the loss of up to 200 frontline jobs! – That’s 200 jobs!
So there might not be station closures (yet) but there are definitely far less firefighters in those stations and that number is likely to dramatically fall!
- “a mobility clause and no transfer and matching policy for senior officers”
No doubt there will be many senior officers reading that and screaming!!
It was agreed almost a year ago, that the A and B elements of all Watch, Station and Group manager roles would be amalgamated to create a single element role, with all personnel in those new roles being moved to the B rate of pay.
Despite the Chief Officer since reiterating this, it still hasn’t happened. At the same time, adverts for promotions to roles at the B rate of pay are being published, which would see Station Managers being promoted to Group Manager B roles, above current Group Managers at the A rate of pay.
What are the illustrious FBU leaders doing about it? Nothing!
Of course, the major issue for Flexi Duty Officers has been the new Flexi Duty System, that the Scottish officials agreed to with management, against the express wishes of the officer members.
Consequently, those officers are now working a ridiculous amount of hours and their numbers are reducing.
Again, the Scottish officials are doing nothing! Well, they created it, after all!
The matter was the subject of a complaint and has been investigated by Head Office, but the report has been sitting on the President’s desk for almost 3 months with nothing yet being done.
Overall, the contents of the circular are alarming and very very worrying for FBU members.
It shows how out of touch with the real world Mr Robertson and his minions are. It also explains why FBU members’ concerns are being unheard, as their Scottish level representatives are now clearly believing their own propaganda!
No wonder Scottish FBU members are up in arms and demanding change!
Many members are leaving the Union and many more are also talking about doing so – all because of the Scottish leadership!
If they were doing such a good job and having such “major successes”, surely the opposite would be the case?!
It’s time for FBU Head Office and the Executive Council to finally do something about this untenable situation.
They can start by initiating the election process for the post of Scottish Regional Secretary and let the change begin, before it’s too late and there’s nothing left to fight for!