FBU Siren Winter 2008

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FBU Siren Winter 2008 Powered By Docstoc
                                                                           Inside this issue
                                                                           > Maternity rights: A
                                                                           breakthrough deal page 8
                                                                           > Facilities: campaign
                                                                           gets a mobile boost page 2
The magazine of the Fire Brigades Union Women Members >                      Winter 2008

SHIFT cHangeS:
FamIly UnFrIendly
FBU members make a stand for their
rights as working parents page 6

4 Campaign news
     FBU campaigns for
     abortion rights at TUC
     Education successes
     Breaking through
     the glass ceiling

                                                               UK’s first
6 Shift changes                                                mobile
                                                               welfare unit
     They aren’t family

8 Maternity rights

                                                               goes live
     Smallest brigade shows
     the way forward

Cover PiCture: HannaH BraCkenBury/DerBy evening

                                                                                 Siren            Siren
                                                                                 NEW FBU          EDUCATING, ENTHUSING
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  Bradley House, 68 Coombe Road,                                                 Pregnancy does
  Kingston upon Thames, KT2 7AE .                                                not have to be
                                                                                 a dispiriting
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  2  Siren Winter 2008 
                                                                            Editors’ letter
                                                                                                                    elcome to the third edition of Siren
                                                                                                                    published this year and what
                                                                                                                    we hope will be a great read for
                                                                                                                       This edition includes news from
                                                                                                                    the Isle of Wight regarding the
                                                                                              adoption in full of the FBU maternity policy. Read the
                                                                                              back cover for full details. Well done to the Isle of White
                                                                                              for this very progressive step.
                                                                                                 We are also reporting news (see left) from the South
                                                                                              West women who took a regional women’s delegation
                                                                                              to Avon FRS to view and assess their superb new
                                                                                              dignity vehicle. This vehicle is for firefighters to use at
                                                                                              incidents and during training exercises. It would be great
                                                                                              to see other fire and rescue services moving towards
                                                                                              purchasing a dignity vehicle of this standard.
                                                                                                 The biggest issue of the moment for our members,

        t last – a fire and rescue service has invested in state-of-                          though, is the changes in shift patterns being pushed in
        the-art mobile facilities to give firefighters the dignity                            many fire and rescue services up and down the country.
        they deserve at the fireground.                                                       Women have a big role to play in campaigns 
   A delegation of women from the South West region visited
Avon’s three-toilet facility, which caters for men, women and                                 organised by brigade committees as 
people with disabilities. It is awaiting mobilisation around the
area, from outside Templemead station in central Bristol.
                                                                                              often changes to shifts are proposed 
   Pauline Layhe, South West region women’s rep, said: “We’ve                                 on the basis that they are more family 
been shouting about this for a long time. Avon has taken the
lead, providing its firefighters with a much-needed facility. Every                           friendly or that the 2/2/3 pattern is not
brigade in the country should have one to give people dignity,                                    We have seen the brilliant placards used in
especially when they are out at a fireground for many hours. It can                           Derbyshire to tell the authority what the firefighters and
‘Every brigade in the country should have                                                     their families think of the proposed changes to the shifts
one to give people dignity, especially when                                                       Women have a big role to play in campaigns organised
they are out at a fireground for many hours’                                                  by brigade committees as often changes to shifts are
                                                                                              proposed on the basis that they are more family friendly
be especially difficult for women, but men need these facilities too.
                                                                                              or that the 2/2/3 pattern is not. Most of our women
   “Over the years everyone has had to make do, and it’s been
                                                                                              members do not support this view and can really get
even harder for women than men to preserve their dignity. But
                                                                                              involved to help dispel this rubbish!
the growing number of women in the service has highlighted the
                                                                                                  Look out for the FBU Annual Women’s School flyer and
need for this kind of provision. For everyone.”
   The visiting women were impressed that the lavatory doors                                  application form that will be arriving on your doorsteps
ran from floor to ceiling and that each cubicle contained a                                   in the near future. The Women’s School takes place from
cabinet with a choice of sanitary towels and tampons – a far                                  3 to 5 April 2009 at Wortley Hall, near Sheffield. This year
better deal than many women get at their own stations.                                        is the 10th anniversary of the NWC being fully integrated
   The unit also contains somewhere to wash up and a separate                                 into the FBU rules and structures and we have much
space for drinks. The Avon initiative is also “green” – the vehicle’s                         to celebrate. Put the date in your diary and fill out the
chassis is recycled.                                                                          application form when it arrives.
                                                                                                  We hope you enjoy this edition of Siren. Please get
>  The FBU Executive Council has given backing to a new guide for                             in touch with news from your brigade and your views on
FBU reps to negotiate on workplace facilities. Drafted by the National                        issues reported.
Women’s Committee in conjunction with health and safety and fairness 
at work reps, it will be published and distributed throughout the FBU in                       Vicky Knight, Executive Council member, Women
due course                                                                                     Kerry Baigent, Secretary, National Women’s Committee

                                                                                                                                   Winter 2008 Siren  3
campaIgn newS
 In short FbU women bring the
          campaign to Congress
  •  Congratulations to the FBU 
  National Gay and Lesbian Committee 
  on winning an equality and diversity 
  award for outstanding achievement 
  in leadership in the Fire and Rescue 
                                                          AbortIon rIghtS

                                                                                                                                                     andrew wiard
  Service. It is a great achievement 

  and the NWC are really proud of                  BU women were proud to play a role
  our brothers and sisters on the                  in rallying support for the campaign to
  G& L committee who have worked 
                                                   defend and extend women’s abortion
  tirelessly to equalise rights for gay, 
  lesbian, bisexual and transgender         rights at both the TUC women’s conference and
  people. Well done to all concerned.       Congress this year.
                                                As Siren went to press, FBU women
                                            were among those campaigning to defend
                                            and extend women’s abortion rights in the
                                            final stages of the Human Fertilisation and
                                            Embryology Bill which faced amendments to
                                            restrict women’s rights.
                                                In September, Congress reiterated that a       women, gave a spirited speech spelling out why
                                            woman’s right to choose is a fundamental right.    a woman’s right to choose is a central trade
                                            Delegates voted overwhelmingly for an end to       union issue.
                                            anti-abortion attacks on women’s fundamental          Attacks on abortion rights would, she told
                                            rights and for improved access to abortion         Congress, have the greatest impact on poorer
                                            services including rights for women in Northern    women. Attempts to undermine a woman’s
                                            Ireland.                                           right to choose must not be allowed to pass
                                                Attempts in parliament to lower the abortion   under the radar unchallenged.
                                            time limit were defeated in May following             Citing the “Palin Effect” in America – where
  • We are pleased to welcome
                                            intensive pro-choice campaigning, with trade       the “ gun-toting- war-lovin’ homophobic“
  Jo Byrne regional women’s
  representative for Wales to the           unionists playing a pivotal role. The FBU, which   Vice- presidential candidate is championing
  National Women’s Committee. Jo            is affiliated to the Abortion Rights Campaign,     anti-choice – Vicky said the “global assault on a
  was elected in September by the           spoke to the motion at both the Women’s TUC        woman’s right to choose needs a united global
  Welsh women members AGM held              and Congress, where it was chosen for debate as    response”
  in Mid and West Wales. Jo, a leading      a priority issue facing working women today.          She urged unions to support, affiliate and
  control operator for South Wales              Backing the motion, Vicky Knight (above),      donate to the Abortion Rights Campaign www.
  Fire and Rescue Service, is currently     the FBU’s Executive Council member for   
  organising women’s meetings
  across the country and is already
  working hard raising issues on            tUC calls for firm approach
  behalf of women members.
                                            to break the glass ceiling
  •  Emma Davis, rep for East 
  Anglia (Region 9) has given birth                        Sex And poWer

  to a gorgeous healthy baby – Alfie               ex and Power, the Equality and Human
  Matthew. Congratulations to Emma                 Rights Commission’s annual report
  and Matt Davis. Emma was on the                  looking at women in top positions of
  front cover of the Spring 2008 edition    power and influence across the public and
  of Siren and is currently on maternity 
                                            private sectors, suggests a worrying trend of
  leave. Thanks to all those who have 
  made inquiries about Alfie and            reversal or stalled progress – with only a few         TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:
  Emma. Your messages have been             significant increases.                             “It’s bad enough that progress towards more
  passed on to Emma.                            Now in its fifth year, the index this year     women reaching the top of their profession is
                                            indicates fewer women hold top posts in 12         crawling along at a snail’s pace, but in some areas
                                            of the 25 categories (almost half). In another     the snail is crawling in the wrong direction.
                                            five categories, the number of women remains           “This survey proves that the softly-softly
                                            unchanged since 2007’s index.                      approach towards breaking down the glass
                                                Women’s representation has increased in        ceiling is not working. A firmer approach is
                                            just eight areas. There are fewer women MPs        needed so that women can reach the top on
                                            in Westminster, where they make up just            merit, rather than by having to fight every
                                            19.3 percent of all MPs, putting the UK 70th       obstacle that society puts in their way.”
                                            globally. In 2007, just 14.3 per cent of women
                                            are local authority council leaders, down from     > 
                                            16.6 per cent in 2004.                             workingbetter 

4  Siren  Winter 2008
South West women’s school ‘resounding success’
                edUCAtIon                       improvements for everybody. PPE
                                                (Personal Protective Equipment) will be

      he South West women’s school held         one of the priorities of the South West FBU
      in Torquay this year was a resounding     Women’s campaign for 2009.
      success. There were 10 students               Julie Weekes, our energetic TUC Tutor
comprising a broad spectrum of FBU              encouraged us into some action-packed
women members from among control,               role play. I was particularly impressed with
firefighters, wholetime and retained,           the acting skills of those playing manage-
officers and the gay and lesbian section.       ment. The FBU ‘gang’ used the Problem,
    Terry Marsland, the former deputy           Information, Plan, Organise to Win
general secretary of the TASS trade union       (PIPOW) approach and managed to extract
who continues to be a leading figure in the     solutions like blood from a stone.
National Assembly of Women, inspired all            All performed in an environment that
participants about the history of women in      was supportive. We had met new friends
the trade unions. In 1788 The Sisterhood of     and gained more knowledge. Some of us
Hand Spinners in Leicester gathered 18,500      felt empowered enough to be more active
signatures and took them to parliament.         in the Union and many felt we had learnt
These female laceworkers were known as          more in an all-woman environment.
turbulent and mischievous. How dare they            Thanks to executive council member
ask for equal pay for like work!                Tam McFarlane and the FBU South West
    Terry left us in no doubt at the end of     officials for acknowledging our need for a
her session that women’s issues are working     women-led, organised and attended school.
class issues that affect men too.
    When we collectively address problems       Pauline Layhe, control operator and
– such as facilities (see page 2) – it brings   South West women’s rep

… east Anglia women’s school too
                 edUCAtIon                       Congress), which represents TUC-affiliated        Networking opportunities and
                                                 trade unions in London, the South East and     the briefing on the National Women’s

      leven students and five children from      the East of England.                           Committee were welcomed. The workshops
      across East Anglia attended a two-day          Sue Offland, secretary of the Control      by TUC Tutor Michele Marshall on “Votes
      FBU women’s school at Belstead             Staff National Committee, also spoke. She      for Women” and “Bullying and Harassment”
House, Ipswich, in July this year. The school    updated the school on the unions’ campaign     were seen as the most educational. The
covered a range of issues from the structure     on the FireControl project and how, as         crèche facilities and crèche workers (the
of the FBU and maternity rights to how the       members, we could become more involved         same as those we use for our National
vote for women was won and the women’s           in the campaign against regional controls in   Women’s School) were once again excellent.
movement today.                                  England.                                          This feedback will be used to evaluate
    Workshops included “bullying and                 The school exceeded expectations with      the event and will be incorporated into the
harassment” and “grievances.” Our guest          the overwhelming majority of students          planning for next year’s school.
speaker was Megan Dobney, the regional           positive about the mixture of activities
secretary of SERTUC (Southern and Eastern        and issues covered, according to written       Helen Astridge, FBU East Anglia women’s
Regional Council of the Trades Union             feedback collected at the end of the school.   rep and regional chair

                                                                                                                     Winter 2008  Siren  5
noT So

                                                                                                       HannaH BraCkenBury/DerBy evening telegraPH
there may be something of a macho swagger
about the way fire authorities seem intent on
bringing in changes that penalise working
parents. But it’s all cloaked in a touchy-feely
“family friendly” spin, which just doesn’t wash
with those who know the reality of shift work.                                                                                                       Derbyshire firefighters

Siren looks at these controversial changes – and                                                                                                     demonstrate against shift
                                                                                                                                                     changes outside the Derby
                                                                                                                                                     FRS HQ during a fire authority
how they could scupper the Government’s much-                                                                                                        meeting on September 25.
                                                                                                                                                     Front: Helen Cope with daughter
trumpeted drive to attract more women to the job.                                                                                                    Ruby Debes, 16 months

              raditional shift patterns, along      ‘The 2-2-4 system was                                                                           lengthening of the day shift to up to 12 hours
              with beds for night shift fire-                                                                                                       and the shortening of the night shift that is
              fighters, have been under threat      definitely better. The third                                                                    proving a headache for many working parents.
              since the middle of the decade,                                                                                                           Firefighters in Nottingham have been on a
              as authorities seek to press ahead    day is a killer and so is                                                                       roller-coaster when it comes to shift changes,
with the government’s box-ticking “mod-                                                                                                             choosing what looks like the least worst
ernising agenda”. Since 2006, every authority       the third night, especially                                                                     option when presented with a management
has to tick a box to say they have looked at                                                                                                        ultimatum. Two years ago crews swapped to
changing shift patterns – following the Bain        if you’ve got children.                                                                         12-hour shifts, 3 days on, 3 off and 3 night’s
Inquiry into the firefighters’ pay dispute.                                                                                                         shift pattern. Management first tried to
    Astonishingly, the need for change was          The nurseries all shut at                                                                       impose an even more unpalatable shift pattern
presented by Bain as a way of making a male-                                                                                                        of eight-hour shifts.
dominated job more family friendly and              six and I don’t get home                                                                            After Union protests, they came back with
attracting more women. And that’s how fire                                                                                                          the 3-3-3 option, which the majority chose.
authorities and managers continue to “spin” it.     until way after (shift                                                                              Leigh Curtis, Nottinghamshire firefighter
    Wrong, wrong, wrong, say women already                                                                                                          and mother of a four-year-old, explains:
working new shifts. The long-established
                                                    ends at 7). It’s difficult.’                                                                    “People were desperately worried so they
two days on, two nights on, four days off                                                                                                           voted for 3-3-3 because it looked the least
shift pattern is, they argue, the true family-      more women. And what our women are telling                                                      worst option”. Leigh does not relish working
friendly option. And the changes managers           us is ‘if you do that we’re leaving’.”                                                          3/3/3. “The 2-2-4 system was definitely better.
are bringing in are making it harder, not easier,       Research circulated by the NWC found                                                        The third day is a killer and so is the third
to combine caring responsibilities with a fire-     that 96.9 per cent of women firefighters do                                                     night, especially if you’ve got children. The
fighting career.                                    not want changes to shift patterns. The NWC                                                     nurseries all shut at six and I don’t get home
    Kerry Baigent, NWC secretary, says fire         argues this traditional shift is more accurately                                                until way after (shift ends at 7). It’s difficult.”
authorities are failing to listen to women’s        described as 2-2-3 than 2-2-4 because up to                                                         Negotiations are currently under way to
concerns, fleshed out in surveys and feedback       nine hours of the first “day off ” on the roster                                                look at alternative shifts
from the union.                                     are actually spent at the station, as the last                                                      In neighbouring Derbyshire, firefighting
    “Management are saying changes to shifts        nightshift spills over to morning.                                                              parents from across the county were so
are needed to improve equality and recruit              Change comes in many guises – but it is the                                                 concerned about plans to extend the working

6  Siren Winter 2008 
                                                                                                       GMC GREY DAYS AND SHIFTS
                                                                                                       – THE MoST UN-FAMIlY-
                                                                                                       FRIENDlY pRACTICE
                                                                                                       Being on short-notice call is the most
                                                                                                       un-family-friendly practice. You have to
                                                                                                       arrange child care on the off chance they
                                                                                                       call you in. if you don‘t get called, it’s
                                                                                                       wasted money or messing your family
                                                                                                       Doing both nights in the middle of your
                                                                                                       days off leaves you completely drained.
                                                                                                       Women have left the brigade due to the
                                                                                                       change in the shift system, as they could
                                                                                                       not make it work with their partners also
                                                                                                       being in the fire service.
                                                                                                       Having to come in on one of your days
                                                                                                       or nights off means you can go up to two
                                                                                                       weeks with hardly seeing your family.

day by two hours that they staged a protest        threat remains.                                    women are being hit hardest (see box above) as
in September as the fire authority met at area        The most sweeping changes to working            brigade chair Al Anderson acknowledges. “It is
headquarters. Under the change – which             practices have occurred in Greater Manchester.     certainly less family-friendly than before. There
managers are set to impose in January –            Under its five-watch duty system, firefighters     are extra days when you could be rostered in.
11-hour days will replace the traditional nine-    can be asked to come in when they are on days      And there are “grey days” to cover for sickness
hour shifts and the nightshift will be cut from    or nights off. In addition, staff cover for sick   and absence. There used to be short-notice
15 to 13 hours.                                    colleagues on so called “grey days”.               grey days when people would only get an
   Helen Tooley, crew manager and women’s             Cost-cutting was a clear motive – 81 posts      hour’s notice – but even management realised
rep for the FBU’s East Midlands region             were lost across the county’s 41 stations. The     that wasn’t working. Now it’s 42 hours.”
(Region 6), said: “Feeling is very strong at the   “carrot” was extra slabs of time off after seven       Management in Mid and West Wales was
moment. Managers say they want to recruit          tours of duty, which could suit some. But          rumoured to be planning radical reforms
more women, but this change goes against the                                                          modelled on Greater Manchester. As Siren
diversity agenda. The shift changes they are                                                          went to press, this appeared to be unfounded.
after would make it nigh on impossible for         Cost-cutting was a clear                           But the union has already organised meetings,
anyone with family responsibilities to join,                                                          galvanised opposition and passed on a survey
and many will leave. Lots of guys I work with      motive – 81 posts were                             showing that three quarters of women
also have or share childcare responsibilities                                                         would consider leaving the brigade if shifts
and it would make life very difficult for those    lost across the county’s                           changed. This has been passed to the Welsh
families.” If management imposes change                                                               fire minister.
in January as feared, the indications are the
                                                   41 stations. The ‘carrot’                              Jo Byrne, NWC rep for Wales who organ-
union will not meekly accept the change.           was extra slabs of time                            ised the survey said: “Why change shifts when
   The same goes for women in London,                                                                 there is so much opposition?”
where crews want to carry on working two           off after seven tours of                               The government’s drive to increase diver-
nine-hour day shifts followed by two 15-hour                                                          sity in the FRS workforce is very welcome. But,
night shifts. The fire authority wants to change   duty, which could suit                             in pushing ahead with shift changes which
this to 12-hour shifts and replace night shift                                                        will deter women from joining – and prompt
single-sex dormitories with “horizontal            some. But women are                                many women to leave, it is shooting itself in
resting facilities.“ Women in London spoke                                                            the foot. Ministers and fire chiefs can’t say they
out against the plan 18 months ago, but the        being hit hardest.                                 haven’t been warned.

                                                                                                                              Winter 2008 Siren 7
                                                                                                              NATIONAL WOMEN’S
                                                                                                              COMMITTEE OFFICIALS
                                                                                                              EC Member
                                                                                                              Vicky Knight
                                                                                                              07710 741 460 •
                                                                                                              NWC Secretary
                                                                                                              Kerry Baigent 
                                                                                                              07736 818 036 •
                                                                                                              NWC Chair
                                                                                                              Dona Feltham
                      Claire and                                                                              07802 583622 •
                      Benjamin                                                                                NWC Region 1 (Scotland)
                                                                                                              Denise Christie 
                     MATERNITY DEAl BREAKTHRoUGH!                                                             0780 104 7620 • 
                     A year’s leave – nine months on full pay                                                 NWC Region 2 (Northern Ireland)
                                                                                                              Lynda Rowan
                     and three months on half pay                                                             07764 186 268 • 
                                                                                                              NWC Region 3 (North East)
                     Smallest brigade shows the way                                                           Sam Rye
                                                                                                              07977 297 563 • 

                     forward with groundbreaking deal                                                         NWC Region 4 (Yorkshire)
                                                                                                              Patricia Jeffery
                                                                                                              07963153886 –
                     New mother Claire Holbrook is the           Steve Apter, the group manager for           NWC Region 5 (North West)
                     first FBU member to benefit from the        workforce development and diversity          Contact Vicky Knight
                     best maternity deal in any UK fire and      at the brigade is now an unashamed           NWC Region 6 (East Midlands)
                     rescue service. Claire, a full time fire-   convert to the FBU’s views on mater-         Helen Tooley
                     fighter for five years, is relishing time   nity pay and leave. He says the new          07795117796 •
                     with her baby son Benjamin without          deal makes sound business sense, will        NWC Region 7 (West Midlands)
Maternity rights

                     having to worry about money. She            help the brigade attract and retain          Helen Harrison
                     plans to return to Red Watch at             more women firefighters and signal to        07767 886 189 •
                     Newport station on the Isle of Wight        both staff and the wider community           NWC Region 8 (Wales)
                     in June.                                    that the service is serious about devel-     Jo Byrne 
                         “I am quite ambitious and love my       oping a more diverse workforce.              07827300087 •
                     job,” Claire explains. “But I wanted            “Women are poorly represented at         NWC Region 9 (East Anglia)
                     to spend as much time as possible           the moment,” says Steve Apter. “We           Helen Astridge
                                                                                                              07899701042 •
                     with Benjamin, and now I can afford         have to look at the barriers that are
                     to without feeling the pressure to get      preventing them from joining and             NWC Region 10 (London)
                                                                                                              Sally Harper
                     back to work before June. It’s a relief.”   remaining. When Claire was still             07854998523 • sally.harper@london-fire.
                         And her far-sighted employers are       pregnant, she told me that the existing
                     canny enough to realise the brigade is      policy would force her back to work          NWC Region 11 (South East)
                     getting a very good deal in adopting        before she was ready.” This, along with      Jenny Impey
                     key elements of the FBU’s “best             conversations with brigade officials         07946146615 •
                     practice” maternity pay and leave           and a look at the FBU document,              NWC Region 12 (Southern)
                     blueprint, drawn up by the National         convinced him that the Union had             Kate Ellis
                     Women’s Committee.                          got it right on the benefits of giving
                         To meet new Government diver-           women a better deal on maternity pay         NWC Region 13 (South West)
                     sity targets, all fire services must aim    and leave.                                   Pauline Layhe 
                                                                     “If the Isle of Wight, as the smallest   07968724348 •

                     ‘I can’t see why other fire                 FRS in the country can offer women
                                                                 who go on maternity leave this deal,           STRESSED AT HoME
                     services and authorities                    then I can’t see why other fire services       STRESSED AT WoRK
                     can’t do the same’                          and authorities can’t do the same,” he

                     to ensure 15 per cent of new entrants
                                                                     Claire Holbrook and Mark
                                                                                                               0800 783 4778
                     are women by 2013, drawing on the           Deacon, IOW FBU brigade chair                       FBU free stress and
                     “talent and potential” available. Only      are also hoping publicity about the                    support line
                     4.2 per cent of Isle of Wight Fire and      ground-breaking agreement will help
                     Rescue Service are women.                   women firefighters throughout the
                         IOWFRS staff were traditionally         UK get a fairer deal. As Claire put it:
                                                                                                              FBU FREEpHoNE
                     covered by the local council’s mater-       “If other brigades are really serious        lEGAl ADvICE lINE
                     nity agreement. This would have
                     given Claire just six months leave –
                                                                 about recruiting more women, it’s
                                                                 pretty obvious they should follow suit.
                                                                                                              0808 100 6061
                     12 weeks at 90 per cent and the rest        Give women more pay and time off
                     at SMP (Statutory Maternity Pay).           when they have a baby.”

   8  Siren Winter 2008

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