Fire chiefs say 999 cover will be normal

FIRE chiefs in Essex have sought to play down upcoming industrial action by the FBU and assured the public it will be “business as usual” as far as emergency cover for the county is concerned.

Roddy Ashworth

FIRE chiefs in Essex have sought to play down upcoming industrial action by the FBU and assured the public it will be “business as usual” as far as emergency cover for the county is concerned.

The union has announced that as of next week its members will enforce an overtime ban, refuse to “act up” for senior colleagues and decline to work on scheduled days off.

The move follows a ballot last month in which a majority of those who voted backed calls for industrial action short of a strike.


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The FBU claims that the Essex Fire Authority has plans to axe one in 10 frontline firefighter posts over three years and change the way some of its specialist vehicles - including new aerial ladder platforms and some rescue tenders - are crewed.

But the authority disputes the union's figures, saying only one in 30 frontline firefighter posts would be affected and that there would be no compulsory redundancies.

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The authority also insists it is not obliged to negotiate with the FBU to change the structure of the service and the way it operates, merely to consult with the union before it makes its own decisions.

Yesterday, however, Keith Flynn, Essex FBU brigade chair, said: “Essex fire crews don't want to take any action but we have little option.

“We had hoped to resolve the dispute by now but the fire authority keep finding excuses to avoid negotiating and have thus far refused our offer of a joint review that might reach an agreement.

“We have given as long as the law allows before we have to give notice of the start of action. This action is taken reluctantly but with great determination to stop cuts to frontline fire services.

“Our action will only highlight where there are already shortages or where the fire authority relies on the goodwill of their fire crews to provide a service.

“But refusing to negotiate or reach agreement shows they hold their fire crews in contempt and yet they still expect goodwill in return.”

Chief fire officer David Johnson said management at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service were “dismayed and bemused” at the action the FBU were planning as none of it involved any contractual implications for its staff.

He also claimed that that while some firefighters did offer their goodwill, an equal number did not.

“I would firstly like to re-assure the public that they will continue to get the high level of service we, and our crews, are proud to provide to them,” he said.

“Yet again the FBU are unable to get their facts right, six out of 10 of our firefighters did not vote in favour of this action.

“We are happy to talk to the FBU about their concerns at any time but for us it will remain very much business as usual.”

The FBU will begin its action at 9am on Wednesday.

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