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Firefighters ‘struggling to make ends meet’ due to low pay, it is warned

PUBLISHED: 14:47 31 October 2018 | UPDATED: 14:47 31 October 2018

Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Picture: NICK BUTCHER

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Firefighters have warned that they are “struggling to make ends meet” because their pay is so poor they struggle to provide for their families.

Picture: NICK BUTCHERPicture: NICK BUTCHER

The shocking claim came from Fire Brigades Union (FBU) regional chairman Cameron Matthews, who in a letter to the area’s MPs said the problem was “significantly compounded locally when we factor in the commonly accepted higher cost of living in the East of England”.

At the moment, a full-time firefighter earns an average of £30,533 for a 42-hour week, compared to the average salary in Ipswich of about £24,000 for a 38-hour week.

However the FBU claims the unsociable hours firefighters have to work mean they often rely on partners to look after the children at home, who are therefore more restricted in bringing in a second income.

That, campaigners say, leaves many firefighter households well below the £40,000 annual earnings threshold that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation sets as a benchmark for a family of four to maintain a decent standard of living.

Picture: NICK BUTCHERPicture: NICK BUTCHER

The firefighters are being supported in their increased pay claim by Ipswich MP Sandy Martin, who was one of those to attend a House of Commons meeting called by Mr Matthews to lobby parliamentarians for greater wages,

Although he would not say what he believes firefighters should be paid, Mr Martin said: “Firefighting is a dangerous job which requires a lot of training and commitment and should be paid accordingly.

“The pay has to be sufficient to attract the right people for the job. There is a real danger that you won’t end up with enough competent and committed people.”

But he argued the problem was much wider than firefighters, as he believes a lot of local government roles are not paid at the level they should be.

Fire tackled close to County Upper School, Bury St Edmunds Picture: NICK BUTCHERFire tackled close to County Upper School, Bury St Edmunds Picture: NICK BUTCHER

“We’re absolutely committed to trying to get a better deal for all public sector workers,” he added.

In his letter, Mr Matthews said that although firefighters had seen a 2% uplift in pay in the past decade, that meant a cut in real terms when taking into account the rise in inflation and cost of living.

“You will appreciate such a significant reduction in pay presents and untenable position for firefighters and their families, with many now struggling to make ends meet,” he told MPs.

“I can confirm that for hard working firefighters and their families, real wage growth has not been seen for nearly a decade.

“The reality is that firefighters have experienced unrelenting and unfair financial punishment since 2010.

“Degradation of pay has seen an increase in the resignation of mid-career firefighters to a myriad of better paying occupations.

“This brings a resulting loss in experience and expertise that is crucial to the effective delivery of a frontline emergency service and is a detriment to the public.

“Firefighters should not have to choose between their profession and having a family.

“For the risks they take, for their commitment and dedication to the safety of their communities, they should at least expect pay that will afford them a decent standard of living.”

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