8 Human Resources
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Our People

We can only deliver the improvements proposed in this plan, through the work of all our staff whether in an emergency response role or part of the support services. Therefore, we will continue to do all we can to recruit, develop and retain a high quality, professional workforce; one which continues to attract the respect of both the general public and the other agencies with which we work. However the new approach proposed in this plan, and some of the longer-term developments which will flow from it, means that there need to be a number of changes in the roles and responsibilities of our staff. This in turn means that some changes to way in which we currently operate are essential.

Emergency Response Staff

Significant change was envisaged for our firefighting staff when the recent national dispute was settled with a significant pay increase agreed linked to modernisation of the service and increased flexibility in working arrangements. There remain a number of details to be settled about implementation of the pay agreement. We will do what we can to help settle these details quickly and harmoniously.

We believe that the approach agreed by all parties to settle the dispute, will provide the opportunity to work constructively with our staff, and their trade unions, to improve the services we can provide, while also improving job satisfaction for staff and providing more opportunities to achieve a reasonable balance between their working and private lives.

We will continue to work closely with the fire service employers, other fire authorities around the country and all recognised trade unions, to revise and update the conditions of service for firefighters (set out in what is known as the Grey Book). This will maintain a national framework of conditions of service linked to national pay scales, while increasing the flexibility for local fire authorities, in discussion with the trade unions, to develop local solutions geared to improving community safety locally, flexible working patterns and reflecting the particular needs and circumstances of the communities they serve. These national discussions will also address the scope for moving away from the current system of single point entry for firefighters (whereby all uniformed staff join the service as firefighters and can then progress through the ranks).

Agreement has been reached nationally to introduce an Integrated Personal Development System which will be at the heart of how we recruit, train, develop, promote and assess our staff. This system identifies the core job roles which all operational personnel need to carry out, and in what areas they need to be competent to work effectively in those roles. We will review how these core roles are defined, and the competencies associated with each of them, in the light of the proposals in this plan.

A key element of this system is to make sure that our structure reflects the number of core roles identified. Currently there are more ranks in the Service than there are core roles. As part of the agreement reached when the recent pay dispute was settled and an overall pay increase agreed, we will now move as quickly as possible to a new role based salary structure for our operational staff, assimilating all our existing operational staff into the new structure. The details about how this will be done, will be discussed in full with the trade unions, in line with our agreed arrangements.

We will also consider developing local arrangements to make additional payments to recognise special skills which particular staff may develop.

We will, after consultation with the trade unions, extend our existing arrangements for pre-arranged overtime that currently apply to our control room, workshops and our non-uniformed staff, to all firefighters to be worked where this can help us improve our services in a cost effective way.

Our plans have developed on our commitment to implement and offer flexible working patterns to our employees. For example, an increased focus on community engagement and preventative work means that our staff need to be available when local people or businesses are ready and able to work with us. This means that much of such work will need to be carried out during normal working hours (for businesses) and in the early evening or at weekends if we are to engage with members of the public who are also working.

We will therefore develop over the coming months proposals for a range of different working patterns available to firefighters. The development of more flexible working patterns was a key part of the modernisation of the service which formed an essential part of, and justification for, the recent pay award for firefighters.

There is a need for a core shift system which maintains 24-hour cover and so there will remain plenty of opportunity for those existing firefighters who wish to do so to remain on their present shift pattern. However, we will also want to introduce ways in which staff can:

  • work part time;
  • focus on day time, or evening shifts but reduce the commitment to night time working;
  • work their contractual hours in a more flexible way
  • vary working patterns so that they are not necessarily based at a single fire station or local office, but could move to different parts of Merseyside to address the particular risks faced by different communities.

Such different working patterns would provide a range of opportunities for staff to adjust their working patterns with their differing domestic commitments and help to increase the flexibility available to achieve a work-life balance which best suits them and the Authority.

We understand that many of our staff do find the current shift pattern attractive, and are concerned about any perceived threat to it. Our objective will be to develop more flexible patterns by agreement, and through recruiting new staff on a more varied menu of working patterns, whilst continuing to utilise the current shift pattern. However we remain committed to using more flexible working patterns where this can help to improve community safety, improve working conditions for staff or help us to operate more efficiently and effectively and deliver better value for money for the community.

As part of implementation of the overall pay award, we will also review the way in which the current system works for our officers, to improve the way in which we use our staff to deliver services to the public.

It is unavoidable that the recent industrial action will have had an impact on staff morale and relations between managers and staff. However now the dispute has been resolved, we will do all we can to develop a positive and constructive industrial relations climate so that staff and managers can work together to improve community safety. We will need to look at our local industrial relations procedures in the light of the review being undertaken of the national procedures in accordance with the national agreement reached with the Fire Brigades Union and as outlined in the Government’s White Paper. One example may be the formal recognition and participation in our negotiating and consultative machinery of other trade unions.

However, inevitably management and the trades unions will not always agree on everything. We will, therefore, put in place effective and speedy disputes resolution machinery, which enjoys the confidence of both parties.

Support Staff

The fire and rescue structure will be enhanced by the role and development of the support staff function to assist in the delivery of all organisational goals.

Employee skills development through both the introduction of IPDS principles and continued professional development will enhance service delivery and increase the move towards single status and equality of opportunity throughout the Service to enable all staff to actively contribute towards the community they serve.

Clear recruitment strategies will enable the Service to reflect within its workforce the representation of the community it serves, and a clear commitment to the principles of work life balance will enable those employees to contribute within work patterns that suit their individual needs.

Our Commitment to Diversity

A key priority for us is to develop our services in a way which is sensitive to the differing needs and aspirations of different parts of Merseyside’s diverse communities. In order to engage with each of those communities effectively we must develop and maintain a workforce which is representative of the communities we serve. This will not only help us to provide more responsive services, but will also help to build confidence in each community that we understand and respect their particular situation and concerns.

We will continue to develop programmes, working in partnership with other agencies, to make sure we not only meet these objectives, but can also show that we are meeting them.

During our recruitment period between 2001/03, we have increased numbers of uniformed personnel from under-represented groups. Whilst good progress has been made in this area, we wish to improve further. Therefore, whenever recruitment is necessary, we will continue to utilise our award-winning positive action strategy to ensure that the Service is representative of the communities we serve.

We are an inclusive Service. Forthcoming changes in the existing regulations that have governed our ability to provide opportunity for all will soon provide opportunity for development at all levels. We will, through working toward competence, move towards a consistent approach to all staff - “single status” ensuring that we employ the very best people for the Service within roles at all levels.

We have a range of measures in place to support and help our staff achieve a fair and healthy work/life balance, through family friendly policies covering areas such as maternity and paternity leave, special leave arrangements, job sharing etc. All staff have available a first class occupational health service as part of the commitment to a healthy workforce.

We will continue to make sure our clothing, protective equipment and the design of our operational equipment does not create any artifical barriers to employment.

We have arrangements in place to challenge and deal with harassment and bullying wherever it may occur in the organisation. This is backed up by confidential support arrangements available to staff through our Equal Opportunities Department, Welfare and Occupational Health Service. There are also grievance procedures, a complaints and compliments procedure and arrangements for whistle-blowing, which staff who are unhappy with the way in which the issues are being managed are encouraged to use.

We have developed a Corporate Action Plan based on the Commission for Racial Equality standards, that sets out the steps we will continue to take to ensure policies, practices and procedures meet the needs of a diverse workforce and community.

We have a programme in place to make sure we meet the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act, and will have completed a programme to carry out the necessary building works by 2005.

We will develop our procurement strategies to make sure our contractors are sensitive to the needs and aspirations of Merseyside’s diverse communities.

We will encourage Merseyside’s diverse business communities to apply for Authority contracts, and make sure our contract strategies facilitate and encourage such applications.

We will promote equality of opportunity to all our contractors and collect evidence to show their commitment.

We will introduce monitoring systems across all key areas of employment and service delivery to ensure that our policies are fair and do not disproportionately disadvantage any particular group.

Health and Safety

We will continue to do everything we can to secure the health and safety of all of our staff, especially those operational firefighters who may be exposed to hostile environments as part of their work to protect the community.

We will work closely with the Health & Safety Executive to make sure we put in place safe systems of working for all aspects of work; and we will continue to work closely with colleagues around the country and with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Fire Services to make sure best practice is exchanged and that we can learn from the experience of others.

We have developed, as part of our safety management system, a comprehensive inventory of the risks associated with our operational activities. We maintain a central register of the risk assessments we have carried out against that inventory and have developed comprehensive guidance for managers on health and safety issues.

We will continue our duty of care towards the community to ensure that no acts or omissions compromise their health and safety, or the environment in which we carry out our activities. We will continue to provide specialist health and safety advice within the organisation and have recently overhauled our systems to collect information about all safety events (given that as much can be learned from near misses as from actual accidents).

We are particularly concerned at violence or aggression directed at our staff and we will examine every possible avenue to protect our staff, and pursue strong action against any individual who acts in an aggressive manner to our personnel. Our Action Plan highlights our intention to pilot closed circuit TV on fire appliances as part of this approach to placing the safety of our personnel at the heart of our response.

We have well established and sophisticated arrangements in place to investigate those accidents which do happen, and to take any necessary action to prevent similar accidents happening again in the future.

We have taken a lead in promoting the management of occupational road risk (MORR) to deal effectively with the health and safety issues of our employees driving our vehicles. There is clearly an element of risk to both our employees and other road users from driving our vehicles and we have been proactive in bringing these essential working activities into the mainstream of health and safety management.

Our policy, introduced in 2002, involves checking licences, testing our drivers, monitoring the maintenance of our vehicles and generally raising awareness of the issues involved to all our employees. We will continue to develop and refine our policies in light of changing circumstances and policies.

©Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service