Frontline firefighters in Berkshire could strike after they rejected a ‘derisory’ pay increase offer.

Pay for firefighters nationally is set by the National Joint Council (NJC) for Local Authority Fire & Rescue Services.

People employed by fire services are divided into two categories: ‘Grey Book’ staff’, which covers uniformed firefighters and safety inspectors , and ‘Green Book’ administrative staff.

The NJC sets pay for firefighters and control staff, but not senior management.

This year, the NJC offered Grey Book staff a five per cent pay increase, but that offer was rejected by members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

In a ballot, 79 per cent of those who voted chose to reject the pay offer, on a 78 per cent turnout.

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The offer has been called “derisory”, and now FBU members are being asked whether they want to go on strike.

Steve Wright, FBU Executive Council member for the Southern region including Berkshire, said: “Strike action will always be a last resort. But we are running out of options. Many firefighters and firefighters working in our control rooms are desperate. Some are struggling to afford to live, pay bills and are visiting food banks. It is a dreadful and very serious state of affairs.

“We continue to do everything we can as a Union to secure a decent and fair pay offer and have held talks with and written letters to many different parties.  But no such pay offer has been forthcoming.

“It is the responsibility of fire service employers and governments to pay their staff properly. That is part of their responsibility of running the fire and rescue service. We hope to recieve a pay offer from them that addresses the cost of living crisis firefighters and firefighters control are living through.

“Our members across Berkshire and the UK have been loud and clear that we must continue to fight for pay that they can live on and will do that.”

The FBU ballot on whether to strike began on Monday, December 5, and closes on January 30, 2023.

Any pay increase will impact the  budget of the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS), which covers the entire county.

The RBFRS gets 80 per cent of its budget from council taxes, and 20 per cent of its funding provided in a government grant.

Concerns about the budget were raised at a meeting of the Royal Berkshire Fire Authority (RBFA) management committee, which is attended by councillors from all six Berkshire local authorities.

At the meeting, it was estimated that the RBFA would have overspent by £373,000 on pay in its budget if the five per cent pay offer was accepted.

Therefore, the overspend is likely to be higher than predicted.

Councillor Colin Dudley (Conservative, Crown Wood), chairman of the RBFA management committee said the committee collectively wanted to thank firefighters "from the bottom of our hearts" for the work they do.

Following that, cllr David McElroy (Green, Redlands) quipped: “Sounds like firefighters deserve an actual pay rise.”

‘Green Book’ staff accepted a pay increase offer which is estimated to cost the RBFA an extra £219,000.