Ministerial rethink urged as deadline for privatising Ministry of Defence firefighters looms

Ministers have been urged to have a serious rethink about the outsourcing of Ministry of Defence (MoD) firefighters in the wake of the Carillion collapse.

The call has come from Unite, the country largest union, over concerns about the Defence Fire and Rescue Services (DFRS) which provide cover on MoD sites and where the outsourcing bidding process involving the firefighters has been extended until May.

Unite has written to the Commons defence select committee outlining to MPs its serious concerns which centre on adequate provision of cover at bases vital for national security should privatisation take place and ‘value for money’ for the taxpayer.

It is understood that the two outsourcing giants still in the bidding for the firefighters’ contract are Capita and Serco which both have chequered records when it comes to service delivery.

Last week, debt-laden Capita said it was raising £701 million from shareholders, following a profits warning in January. In February, Serco saw its pre-tax profits tumble.

In its submission to the select committee, Unite said: “These facts raise serious doubt regarding capability and delivery of such vital services as this by these providers, especially after the collapse of Carillion and the business models used by private providers.”

Unite is due to meet shadow defence secretary Nia Griffith tomorrow (Tuesday 1 May) as part of the campaign to keep the firefighters ‘in-house’.

Unite points out privatisation will lead to job losses at the same time as local authority fire services have also experienced cuts to staff and the closure of fire stations, many of them in rural areas where MoD bases are situated.

The union said that attempts to privatise the MoD firefighters had been going on for at least nine years – a strong indication of the complexity of trying to outsource such an important service with its national security implications.

Unite national officer for the MoD Jim Kennedy said: “Why should hardworking and dedicated firefighters be subjected to such a fractured and flawed privatisation process and all the concerns that this poses for national security at military bases?

“Carillion’s business model was like Humpty Dumpty; broken into pieces and all the efforts by right-wing ideologues to put that model together again will result in failure.

“That’s why we are seeking support from MPs on the select committee to make strong recommendations to the defence secretary Gavin Williamson that the MoD firefighters should not be exposed to the folly of outsourcing.”


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065


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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.