Unions win fire staff pay battle

Fire engineHundreds of workers in the country's biggest fire authority are in line for a payout after unions won a four-year campaign over a long-term wage deal.

Unison and the GMB announced that the Court of Appeal had found in their favour over a 2.5% pay rise for staff at the London Fire Authority, including clerical, administrative and call centre workers.
The unions accused the authority of refusing to honour the third year of an agreed pay deal that would have given staff the 2.5% increase in April 2009. The decision will be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and will affect past and future pay increases, said the unions.

Officials said some low paid workers earning just over £13,600 a year missed out on an agreed pay increase.

Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: "Trust is an integral part of any negotiations and I am pleased that we have been able to deliver pay justice to our members at the authority. Times are tough for many public service workers without being denied a pay rise that they are entitled to.

"It has taken a four-year legal battle to win this case. Without the union to fight this case the employers would have got away with a gross injustice and members and their families would have lost out."

Unison branch secretary Tony Phillips said: "Fire and rescue staff are delighted with the successful outcome of this case. We hope that it will show unscrupulous employers that they cannot get away with reneging on written agreements with trade unions when they no longer suit them."

Paul Maloney, of the GMB, said: "This is great news for our members."

A spokesman for the London Fire Brigade said: "The disagreement stemmed from the fire authority's interpretation of the pay formula for the year 2009, which differed to that of the unions. There was no deliberate attempt to deny people any part of their wages, it was a difference of interpretation, which has been found in the unions' favour. A committee of the authority will now be consulted on the way forward."

The GMB said its members were in line to receive back pay of between £750 and £2,500 each, with another rise in the coming financial year worth between £182 and £664.

Britain's most dangerous jobs
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Unions win fire staff pay battle

By far the most dangerous job across most of the world is fishing. Apparently 103 in every 100,000 fishermen will die at sea - most of them by drowning, and according to Oxford University, those who work at sea are an incredible 50 times more likely to die at work than anyone else.

How well they are rewarded for risking their lives depends on where they fit in the pecking order. At the very top, with your own boat and crew, in a good year, you could bring home more than £100,000. At the bottom of the heap as a trainee deckhand you would be lucky to get more than £10,000 a year.

In the army, these experts have the nickname Felix - because they need every one of the nine lives. We all make mistakes at work and in this role mistakes will kill or maim you. 

In return for taking up such a dangerous role, you'll be paid £32,000 a year, which is made to look even more paltry by the fact that many of these experts end up drawing a disability pension before very long.

The risks of working with highly volatile and explosive materials in impossibly difficult natural environments is bad enough. Add in the risks of working in politically charged environments where you may well be a target for terrorists, and you can see why this is a dangerous job. In fact it has a fatality rate of around 32 per 100,000, and around 100 people a year die in the industry- around twice the average for all UK workers.

This risk, however, is reasonably rewarded - partly because of the fact it can be hard to attract workers to the places where oil and gas needs to be extracted. It's not uncommon for those with experience to be making £75,000 a year.

Put people up high, give them something heavy and awkward to carry, then get them to do it in the rain. It's not surprising this is a dangerous job. What is perhaps surprising is that over the past five years 30% of all work-related deaths in the UK have been in this industry. The riskiest construction jobs are those where heights are part of the every-day business of work - with scaffolders, steeplejacks ad roofers facing the most danger at work.

The pay starts around £20,000 for skilled workers, rising to around £50,000 for site managers.

Around 54,000 road accidents involving professional drivers take place on British roads every year - which is around 250 a day. Meanwhile, one in four of all road deaths involve a driver who is at work at the time. Despite stringent rules about how long they are allowed to drive for, and in-cab telematics to make sure they don't bend the rules, tiredness is the main cause. 

In return for the danger, plus the long hours and the anti-social lifestyle, these workers can expect to earn around £25,000 a year.

The risks are perhaps unsurprising, given that drowning accounts for the majority of fatalities. However there are also problems from high gas consumption and mental health problems, often due to having to spend inordinate times decompressing in a confined space with another individual.

However, given the risks, the inhospitable locations and the skills required, the role can earn you £100,000 a year or more.

These are often ex-military personnel employed to protect wealthy or powerful individuals. The role is unsurprisingly highly dangerous, with the constant threat of terrorist attacks, enemy fire or booby traps.

There really is danger money associated with this job, which is another role than can earn the right individual 6 figures a year.

Around 15 police officers lose their lives at work every year. However, surprisingly, the biggest risk is from involvement in a road accident, which causes 70% of the deaths. Around half of these are officers getting to and from work. Meanwhile no more than one or two are killed by criminals in an average year. Fatalities, however, are only a small proportion of the massive number of injuries a policeman can pick up - with roughly one police officer injured every hour.

In return they can expect to earn around £40,000, rising to £55,000 for senior officers.

Again there aren't a huge number of deaths in the line of duty. However, every fire is potentially fatal, and every job carries the risk of injury. Injures are very common, although burns account for only 5% of them, the rest tend to be due to things like training and carrying equipment.

The pay has been subject to a number of arguments and even strikes but is currently around £30,000.

Perhaps it's surprising that this doesn't come higher up the list. Since 2001 over 350 have lost their lives fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. The front line is clearly just about the most dangerous environment possible, and has to be up there with the place that most people would least like to work.

In return for putting their lives on the line in the service of their county, army personnel can expect to be paid £14,000 when they start out - rising to up to £100,000 for the most senior officers.


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