Firefighters set to strike for first time since 2003 after real-terms earnings 'drop by 12%'

Firefighters are set to stage strike action in a row over pay after experiencing what they say is a cut in real-terms pay.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) voted for action in a ballot that closed on Monday - resulting in the UK's first nationwide fire service strike over pay since 2003.

Firefighters overwhelmingly backed strike action, with 88% voting yes on a 73% turnout.

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The FBU said it has given the government and employers 10 days to to come up with an improved offer which could be put to a vote of members in an effort to avoid strikes.

Firefighters have experienced a 12% drop in real-terms earnings since 2010, the union says, while around one in five firefighter jobs have been cut in the same period.

It comes after members rejected a below-inflation 5% payoff in November.

Polling previously showed strong public support for strike action by firefighters, the union said, with around three in five people backing action.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: "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.

"Firefighters were among Britain's 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."

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Mr Wrack also also said firefighters have faced a "sustained attack on pay for more than a decade with average pay falling by about £4,000 in real terms".

He continued: "Our members face hazardous situations every day and sometimes risk their health to do the job.

"Facing double-digit inflation and rocketing energy bills, they are now being told to put up with an even bigger real-terms pay cut."

Mr Wrack said: "Meanwhile, the UK is home to a record number of billionaires. People join the fire service because they want to help people and serve their community.

"We have been pushed to the point of balloting by a government that is refusing to listen."

The strike announcement comes after research by the FBU and the University of Central Lancashire found firefighters are more likely to die of cancer than the general public.

The firefighters strike action was announced shortly after teachers said they will walk out on Wednesday with more industrial action planned in the following weeks.

The National Education Union has announced seven days of strikes in England and Wales in February and March, with the walkout on Wednesday expected to affect over 23,000 schools.