FIREFIGHTERS are set to go on strike next month after voting overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action.

Across the North 94 per cent of members of the Fire Brigades Union voted in favour of strike action.

In the hope of averting strike action, the Fire Brigades Union has given the government and employers ten days (until Thursday 9 February) to come forward with an improved offer which could be put to a vote of members.  

If they go ahead, the strikes would be the first nation-wide fire strike over pay since 2003. FBU members rejected a below-inflation five per cent pay offer in November last year.  

The vote on industrial action follows more than a decade of real terms pay cuts. It comes as fresh research shows that firefighters are significantly more likely to develop cancer than the general population. 

Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: "Firefighters across the UK have spoken. The Fire Brigades Union has a decisive mandate for strike action. 

"This is an overwhelming vote for strike action against an offer which would mean further significant cuts to real terms wages for firefighters and control room staff. They have already lost at least 12 per cent of the value of their pay since 2010. 

"This is an absolute last resort for our members. The responsibility for any disruption to services lies squarely with fire service employers and government ministers. 

"Rishi Sunak's government has refused to make funding available for a decent pay offer to firefighters and control staff."

Mr Wrack said that firefighters were among the Covid heroes who kept frontline services going during the pandemic.

"The Prime Minister has badly misjudged the public mood by imposing pay cuts on key workers," he continued. 

"Our members risk their health and safety, and sometimes their lives, round the clock to keep people safe and serve their communities. However, with inflation and energy bills rocketing, they are now increasingly struggling to pay the bills or to afford the basics. 

"The government and the employers have the power to stop strikes from happening by making a credible offer that can resolve this dispute. The ball is in their court.  

"We have delayed calling strikes to allow the employers to meet us and to make a new offer. I hope they take that opportunity. Otherwise, in the coming weeks, we intend to announce a series of strike dates and industrial action."

People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll commended the firefighters for their vote.

“Firefighters are being forced to strike for fair pay and investment in services,” he said.    

“These workers put their lives and health at risk to keep people safe, yet they’ve had their pay cut every year for over a decade. 

“Both Stormont and Westminster have endangered people’s lives by starving the fire service of funding and by treating workers with contempt. Our firefighters are worth more than another real terms pay cut.”