Northern Ireland firefighters warn of national strike

Contingency plans were being drawn up last night as firefighters threatened their first national strike in 25 years in a row over pay.

Contingency plans were being drawn up last night as firefighters threatened their first national strike in 25 years in a row over pay.

Leaders of the Fire Brigades Union warned at a march in Belfast that they are prepared to hold a country-wide walk-out if they do not win a new salary formula. During the firefighters' strike in 1977 the Army's Green Goddess fire engines answered emergency calls for nine weeks.

Fire crews have been waging a national campaign for a rise in the average wage for an experienced firefighter from £21,500 a year to £30,000. This would bring them in line with other public service professionals such as teachers and the police.

The formula at the centre of the protest was drawn up after the 1977 stoppage and linked firefighters' pay to that of male manual workers. The union claims that the formula is outdated.

Yesterday's rally in Northern Ireland followed similar demonstrations in recent weeks in Swansea, Manchester, Cardiff and Glasgow. Fire Brigades Union spokesman Jim Barbour claimed that firefighters' earnings 'in no way reflect the difficult and often very dangerous job we do, not least here in Northern Ireland'.

He added: 'We have said all along that we want to avoid confrontation. This remains the case. However, we are absolutely determined that our firefighters should receive the proper salary for the professional job they do. We are not asking for special treatment, but fair treatment,' he said.

Jim Quinn, the union's representative in Northern Ireland said the pay claim was supported by seven parties in the province: 'We have got to convince the Government - our employers - to recognise that there's a need for a change in our pay formula and we have to convince the Government that we are absolutely worth it.

'We hope that we will convince the Government that our pay claim is just and we'll not have to take any industrial action, but at the moment we are prepared to take industrial action if it is necessary. But hopefully we'll not have to do that.'

He said the march would not affect cover at fire stations in the UK today.

Another London rally is planned for 2 September to coincide with talks between the FBU and the pay body.

A vote for strike action at the union's annual conference on 12 September could lead to a stoppage as soon as October.


Martin Bright

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

'Last chance' to legalise abortions in Northern Ireland

Campaigners push for adoption of Abortion Act before power is devolved to Northern Ireland Assembly

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor

18, Oct, 2008 @11:01 PM

Article image
Troops may be called into Northern Ireland if firefighters strike
Exclusive: Fire service chief says he will ask MoD for help if unions do not cover ‘high-risk calls’

Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

26, Jan, 2023 @5:46 PM

Hunger strike threat by Real IRA
The threat of a republican hunger strike looms once more over Northern Ireland's prison system.

Henry McDonald, Ireland editor

06, Jul, 2003 @12:47 AM

Article image
Northern Ireland assembly reopens three years after collapse
Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill stress need to move forward as they take up senior roles

Henry McDonald in Belfast

11, Jan, 2020 @2:29 PM

Strike looms at British Museum
The dented image of a great institution takes another battering as curators face the chop in a cash crisis crisis

Vanessa Thorpe, Arts Correspondent

23, Jan, 2000 @12:53 AM

Article image
New strike chaos as teachers and NHS staff warn of action over pay
Rail unions set to walk out on Tuesday, as clashes loom over public sector pay offers falling short of inflation

Toby Helm, Michael Savage and Jon Ungoed-Thomas

18, Jun, 2022 @6:19 PM

Article image
Gun cache uncovered on National Trust property in Northern Ireland
Semi-automatic handguns and ammunition were hidden at Lisnabreeny estate, Castlereagh

Henry McDonald in Belfast

24, Aug, 2013 @11:05 PM

Strike threat over chaos in classrooms
Teachers at one of the Glasgow schools that struggled to open in time for the new term because of delays in private public partnership maintenance work are preparing to strike.

Stephen Khan Scotland editor

26, Aug, 2001 @7:19 AM

Northern Ireland justice minister 'must insist MI5 shares intelligence'
Alliance party leader David Ford says lessons must be learned from Omagh bombing

Henry McDonald

29, Nov, 2009 @12:07 AM

Actors' strike threatens Bond and Harry Potter
Britain's film industry is drawing up contingency plans to avoid the worst effects of an actors' strike already paralysing some of the biggest films planned for release next year.

Vanessa Thorpe, arts correspondent

22, Sep, 2001 @11:26 PM