THE Fire Brigades Union is calling on Keir Starmer to back financial support – alongside funding for health monitoring and prevention measures – for firefighters who have developed cancer and other diseases through their job.

In a letter to the Labour leader, FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack warned that firefighters had been “betrayed” by the UK government. He said that Starmer must ensure that compensation is paid to those suffering cancer, heart, lung and other conditions caused by exposure to fire contaminants. The union said that the Labour leader should hold talks with the union to ensure that Labour’s manifesto includes a commitment to deliver compensation swiftly if the party wins power.

Such an arrangement would bring the UK in line with a number of other countries, including the US, Canada and Australia, which have had similar measures covering firefighters for decades.

The letter comes almost one year on from the ‘alarming’ findings of a report commissioned by the FBU which revealed that firefighters are significantly more likely to die from cancer than the general population.

The research, conducted by an independent team at the University of Central Lancashire, found that mortality rates for firefighters were:

  • Prostate – 3.8 times higher
  • Leukaemia – 3.17 times higher
  • Oesophageal – 2.42 times higher
  • Cancer with an unknown origin – 6.37 times higher

Incidence of cancer among UK firefighters aged 35-39 is up to 323 per cent higher than in the general population in the same age category.

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary, said: “Firefighters suffering from cancer and other potentially fatal conditions have been betrayed by the UK government. Tory ministers have ignored calls from the FBU and health experts to act over the much greater risk firefighters face of developing these horrendous diseases.

“However, with a General Election on the horizon, Keir Starmer has a historic opportunity to do the right thing and deliver justice for the firefighters who have suffered from these devastating illnesses. Ensuring that firefighters can receive compensation would provide appropriate support to those affected and their families. This should go alongside a programme of regular health monitoring and improved prevention measures.

“The UK is decades behind countries like the US, Canada, Australia and others which already have such a scheme. The Fire Brigades Union stands ready to work closely with the Labour leader’s office and his Shadow cabinet colleagues to deliver this desperately needed recompense in government. It must be a firm commitment in Labour’s General Election manifesto.”

* More information on the research from the University of Central Lancashire here.

* Source: Fire Brigades Union