Fire chiefs hit by “no confidence” vote from trade union members

The fire brigade was in fresh turmoil last night after trade union members passed a unanimous vote of “no confidence” in their bosses.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said the vote was carried after its members repeatedly raised concerns over the availability of fire appliances and the continuing reliance on overtime to crew appliances.

But fire chiefs claimed the move would prevent Scotland’s 7,500 firefighters “saving more lives” and receiving a pay rise.

The row erupted after a consultation was launched into a proposed shake-up of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS).

The FBU said there was “great concern” among members who believe that the negotiations should not begin until other issues are resolved, including standardising terms and conditions following the merger of regional brigades.

There was also reported to be alarm over resourcing levels, with FBU Scotland secretary Denise Christie saying: “We have listened to our members who are on the frontline experiencing issues in relation to the availability of appliances and the continuing need of utilising overtime to crew those appliances.

“We are of the firm belief that we have given SFRS many opportunities to resolve the issues we have raised with no satisfactory improvements.”

As a result, FBU members tabled a vote of no confidence in chief officer Alasdair Hay and his senior leadership team, which was passed unanimously at an emergency committee meeting of the Scottish regional committee.

Kirsty Darwent, chairwoman of the SFRS board, said: “We are perplexed. This comes less than one week into a public consultation on proposals, which could see the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service transform to save more lives.

“The Fire Brigades Union is preventing 7,500 of Scotland’s firefighters – many of whom are not FBU members – being given a real chance to do so much more for our communities, and be paid 20% more to do so.

“We have always been committed to dialogue. Indeed, since June last year have met with the FBU on 20 separate occasions to discuss harmonisation of existing terms and conditions as well as service transformation.

“We once again ask the FBU to put politics to one side, rise above their processes and their procedures and actually do what is right for their members and the communities they serve.”

Scottish Conservative community safety spokesman Maurice Corry said: “Firefighters would not take this action lightly, and this radical move indicates the severity of the situation.”