AF&RS Chief Fire Officer comments on effects of cost of living on staff

Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) Chief Fire Officer (CFO) Simon Shilton has released a statement following the latest announcements on increased cost of living and in light of the ongoing national pay award negotiations for fire service employees.

The statement outlines the CFO’s concerns for the welfare of staff and the measures they are resorting to due to the increased cost of living, in particular the rise in gas and electricity bills and the disproportionate pay they are receiving.

Latest news reports the energy price cap will be up 80% by 1 October and that the situation is likely to worsen by January 2023 and, like most people across the country, is leaving fire service staff worried about how to make ends meet.

Chief Fire Officer, Simon Shilton said: “I have always been proud to be part of the UK Fire and Rescue Service and none more so than as the leader of Avon Fire & Rescue Service.

“My staff work hard and its only fair they deserve to be appropriately remunerated for the invaluable job they do and role they play in society.

“As a Service, our mission is to improve public safety through prevention, protection, response and resilience; providing the highest standard and best value service to the community we serve.

“This work is carried out by a team of dedicated, highly trained and skilled professionals; firefighters, on-call firefighters, control firefighters and corporate staff, who work hard to keep our communities safe, at all costs.

“All our staff deserve a properly funded pay rise in line with the increasing cost of living and in line with those offered to other public sector services.

“Unfortunately, the pay afforded to fire and rescue service staff has not reflected the roles within the Service for some time.

“The number of applications we receive for roles within the Fire Service are declining. Many applicants for firefighter roles are applying in the knowledge they will need to take a drop in salary from their current employment. This has led to difficulties in us recruiting and retaining staff and more recently, has despairingly led to some staff having to access food banks to get by – this cannot be right.

“Following on from the recent period of hot weather and going into the winter, the imminent threat of industrial action with unresolved pay negotiations would stretch our organisation beyond its capabilities. I know for many, taking part in industrial action it is not a decision they will be taking lightly.

“When I speak to staff, they will tell me that they do it for the love of the job, because they care about the future of their local communities and ultimately, they want to keep people safe from harm.

“But as we’re already seeing, this doesn’t pay the bills or put food on the table and staff should be able to do this job, support their families and their communities.

“As a Chief Fire Officer, I am seriously worried about the welfare of my staff who are facing significant hardships. Working with the National Fire Chiefs Council I am doing all that I can to support a properly funded pay settlement for fire and rescue service staff.”

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