The death of corporatism? Managing change in the fire service

Ian Fitzgerald (Sustainable Cities Research Institute, Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Publication date: 1 December 2005



To demonstrate how government policy on fires service reform was initially challenged by a stubbornly resistant fire service corporatism but finally dismantled following the 2003 fire service White Paper.


The paper is based on longitudinal case study data that includes 50 semi‐structured interviews with key fire service personnel at regional and national levels.


This paper examines the roots of corporatism at national and local levels and demonstrates how the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) had significant levels of influence on management decision‐making. This was strongly reflected in the key role of the FBU in the industrial relations process that enabled the union to protect “entrenched” working practices. However, at a local level longstanding corporatist partnerships began to break down as a financial crisis arose and management took a more proactive approach. Corporatist structures at a national level, though, remained and it was not until the Labour government's second term of office that these national structures were overhauled following a White Paper and legislation.


This paper demonstrates that whilst fire service management has consolidated its position under the Labour administration it has proved a disaster for the FBU.



Fitzgerald, I. (2005), "The death of corporatism? Managing change in the fire service", Personnel Review, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 648-662.

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