The impact of the Policing and Crime Act on fire and rescue support staff

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2017 Local Government Service Group Conference
16 February 2017

Conference notes that the Policing and Crime Act became law on 31 January 2017, despite concerns raised by UNISON and other trade unions. This Act allows fire and rescue authorities to be abolished and replaced by Police and Crime Commissioners.

Across England, Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) will be able to take on the responsibilities of fire and rescue authorities, after agreement from the authority and a public consultation, including consulting with employee representatives. Most significantly, they will be able to create a single employer for police and fire staff. The government have been very clear that this option has been included with the intention of cutting jobs, through merging fire and rescue and police staff support roles and ‘streamlining management’.

Conference is concerned about the impact this could have on our membership, who have already suffered disproportionately because of government cuts to fire and rescue services. Since 2010, 69% of compulsory and voluntary redundancies in fire and rescue services were support staff roles and almost 4,000 support staff have left fire and rescue services across Great Britain.

A recent UNISON survey of fire and rescue support staff found that worries about job security and increasing workloads were widespread. 61% of staff did not feel secure in their jobs and 77% said that both their workloads and stress levels had increased in the previous year. These already difficult working conditions will deteriorate further if PCCs choose to create a single employer and merge support roles across fire and rescue and police services.

If PCCs decide to implement the new reforms in full, this Act will push our members and particularly our fire and rescue stewards into uncharted territory. They will face negotiating with a new employer who may not know all the details of fire and rescue support staff roles or their terms and conditions. They may also have to support members through these changes and any resulting mergers of fire and police support roles, which could lead to complex negotiations to protect members’ terms and conditions.

Conference strongly believes that fire and rescue members’ terms and conditions must be protected in the face of further attacks by the government and calls on the service group executive to:

1)Encourage additional efforts to recruit and organise members from fire and rescue services to oppose the implementation of the Act;

2)Work with the police and justice service group executive, other colleagues within UNISON and our sister unions in fire and rescue and police services to develop a joint approach to the Policing and Crime Act at a national level;

3)Support branches to campaign to dissuade PCCs from taking up the reforms permitted by the Act;

4)Develop bargaining advice for branches on the Policing and Crime Act, the options now available to PCCs and engaging with a possible consultation process;

5)Ask Labour Link to raise our concerns with the Labour Party and seek clarification on the party’s policy with regards to the Act.