Essex fire service staff vent feelings over jobs in survey



Fire service staff in Essex have been told they have no need to feel demoralised about their future – despite a major new survey showing workers are less than happy.

The research found that 54% of workers did not think Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) was a better place to work than three years ago with only 13% feeling it was.

Some 47% did not feel morale in their immediate team or watch was high, with 19% neither agreeing or disagreeing, and 44% said they did not have confidence in the future of the service, with a further 24% undecided.

But Essex Fire Authority chairman Anthony Hedley said while he could understand workers’ feelings in what was still an uncertain time for job security following the recession, there was no need for staff to feel anxious.

Possible cuts of 150 to 170 posts had been identified, but these would come through natural wastage and not redundancies.

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Mr Hedley said there was “no reason for staff to be demoralised or anxious about their future” and ECFRS was one of the most modern services with the best equipment and excellent investment. No fire stations had closed and there had been no redunancies.

He believed the survey’s results reflected some local issues – there have been control room and front-line strikes recently – but also national concerns, such as the dispute over pension changes and general uncertainty over job security.

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However, he could not rule out changes in the years ahead – especially if the new Government imposed further budget cuts.

The service now dealt with substantially less fire calls than ten years ago – Basildon station, for example, now attended 1,000 incidents compared with 3,000 in the past – with work focussed on fire prevention.

Mr Hedley said: “There is no reason why any employee of the fire service should feel threatened at the moment.

“We will know more about funding after the General Election, but it would be unfair to ask taxpayers in Essex to pay more for a service when that service is doing 60% less work and that is why we continue to look at efficiencies.”

Riccardo la Torre, Essex Fire Brigades Union (FBU) chairman, said: “Unfortunately the results of the survey don’t come as a surprise too us. In fact it is a situation we have been trying to communicate to senior managers for some time.

“There is a particularly challenging time coming up for ECFRS as a result of central funding cuts. We hope that the outcomes of the staff survey will be the catalyst for fire service senior managers to change their approach going forward and start to rebuild relationships with their staff and listen to their genuine concerns.”

More than 730 of the fire service’s 1,519 staff took part in the £22,000 Make Some Noise employee engagement survey.

In a report to be presented to Essex Fire Authority on April 15, Adam Eckley, acting chief fire officer and acting chief executive, and Lindsey Stafford-Scott, director of HR and organisational development, said the authority’s aim was to have an engaged, highly motivated staff who perform to the highest standards.

Service managers had already created an initial draft action plan to take forward the survey feedback over the coming months and years.

The survey would be repeated in November to enable an early assessment of any areas of improvement from action taken as a result of the initial feedback.

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