Last week, both the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the public were `astonished' as it was revealed that Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) managers were planning to sack all 1,250 of its firefighters, and then re-engage only those who agreed to a new 12-hour shift system (see previous Salford Star article Ė click here).
"We are staggered that GMFRS would jeopardise relations with its workforce in this aggressive way" said Greater Manchester brigade secretary Gary Keary at the time "To start the process for dismissing firefighters to then simply re-engage them on an un-negotiated contract is really appalling, and a serious breach of the agreed mechanisms for industrial relations in the UK fire and rescue service."
After a week of serious backlashes from the public and trade unions, which included a petition signed by 20,000 people, bosses announced this morning that they have done a u-turn and are withdrawing the Section 188 notices of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act which began the process of dismissal.
The following statement has been released...
"The Chair of the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority (GMFRA) has today agreed to withdraw the Section 188 letter issued to the Fire Brigades Union. This letter effectively began the process for potential firefighter redundancies.
"The Chair of the GMFRA has taken this step in order to facilitate talks through the independent Technical Advisory Panel (TAP). The FBU has confirmed that it will participate fully in the TAP and both parties are entering the talks constructively.
"This is a welcome move that will allow both parties to engage in discussions about the detail of the proposals without the threat of action by either party. The TAP will meet on Thursday 29th September and will report within 14 days.
"We must not forget that these changes have been proposed because of continuing cuts by this Government. The GMFRA has already had to make £28 million of cuts and the Government has imposed a further cut of £14.4 million over the next four years. Both the GMFRA and the FBU are committed to ensuring the safety of the public."
In response to the move, Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, says: "This is clearly a step forward. It does not end the matters of disagreement between the FBU and the employer. However, I would like to congratulate all FBU members and officials in Greater Manchester for the unity and determination they have shown during the past two weeks."
*Matt Wrack will be addressing a Public Rally celebrating 150 years of Trades Councils on Saturday 8th October at The Mechanics Institute (103 Princess Street, Manchester, M1 6DD 3:30pm-5pm). Hopefully by then the firefighters will have won this dispute.
Also speaking at the Rally will be Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey and John Hendy QC, marking the official launch of the Greater Manchester Law Centre.