The Government are today publishing our response to a recent public consultation on establishing minimum service levels on strike days for fire and rescue services. At the same time, the Government are laying regulations before Parliament setting out the services which should be provided on a strike day, together with the level of service to be provided.
The services that are provided by fire and rescue authorities are critical to the safety of the public, protection of property and the environment. It is therefore vital that these services are available to the public during strike action. We believe that the prescribed minimum service level balances the ability of workers to strike with the needs of the public to access these crucial services during strike periods.
Minimum service levels exist in a range of countries globally. The International Labour Organisation (an agency of the United Nations) recognises that this is justifiable for services where their interruption would endanger citizens’ lives, personal safety or health. Disruption to fire and rescue services puts lives at immediate risk.
The regulations address the uncertainty of relying on voluntary agreements with unions and arrangements for military or private contractors to provide firefighting capabilities by giving employers the power to issue work notices. This will increase public confidence in the service and better protect public safety during periods of industrial action.
All fire and rescue authorities (FRAs) in England will be subject to these regulations.
Under the regulations, the services included are control rooms, emergency incident response and fire safety. This will ensure that an FRA is able to answer all emergency calls and deploy suitable vehicles and equipment to respond to emergencies, and that serious fire safety issues can be managed while strikes are taking place. This may include deploying trained staff to crew national resilience assets, should they be required. This will ensure that the activities carried out on a strike day are those that are essential to public safety, and that they are prioritised as such.
On 20 July 2023, the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023 received Royal Assent. The Act sets out the powers and processes required to deliver minimum service levels, beginning with a power for the Secretary of State to make regulations regarding which services should be in scope for minimum service levels, and the level of service which must be provided on a strike day. The Act also sets out that before any such regulations are made, the Secretary of State must consult with such persons as they consider appropriate. The Secretary of State for the Home Department held a public consultation for the fire and rescue sector between 9 February and 11 May 2023.
A copy of the consultation response, equality impact assessment and economic impact assessment will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.
The consultation response has been published on www.gov.uk. The Government wish to thank everybody who took the time to provide feedback as part of the consultation process.