Firefighters call seven new strikes

FIREFIGHTERS in Suffolk have announced seven new strike dates in their battle against job cuts in the brigade. The county's Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said although the action was "regrettable", it was deemed necessary because talks with Suffolk County Council had ended in stalemate.

FIREFIGHTERS in Suffolk have announced seven new strike dates in their battle against job cuts in the brigade.

The county's Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said although the action was "regrettable", it was deemed necessary because talks with Suffolk County Council had ended in stalemate.

The union has therefore announced seven two-hour strikes for August 31 and September 1, 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8.

The fresh action is in protest over plans to cut 12 specialist jobs at Bury St Edmunds operating one of the brigade's turntable ladders.

Suffolk County Council has said the total number of job losses from the restructure would be three, all through natural wastage, and the other nine firefighters would be deployed to fire prevention work or providing cover for rural stations that are not currently manned full-time.

A series of strikes have already taken place this month and there are more planned for October 3, 10, 17 and 24.

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Vince Jell, secretary of Suffolk FBU, said: "No firefighters want to strike but we feel that we have to take further action because the change of crew at Bury St Edmunds is a definite downgrade for fire cover.

"The cuts mean that only the main frontline appliance or the turntable can be operated at one time. They cannot be manned together – it is one or the other.

"We are willing to talk and would like to see the situation resolved as soon as possible but as yet Suffolk County Council have done nothing to address our concerns and we will keep on striking until they come back with a better offer."

Joanna Spicer, Suffolk County Council portfolio holder for public protection, said: "I am worried that public safety will again be put at risk, especially at a time when children will be going back to school, but I am confident that we will once again cope.

"It is simply not correct to suggest that we have not been listening. It was on FBU suggestions that we moved the nine posts to fire prevention and to rural stations so that there was wider coverage.

"Moreover it is nonsense that we have compromised public safety. The turntable ladder will be crewed by retained firefighters when necessary and although this may result in a five to 10 minute delay history shows that this will not be a problem because it is not primarily a life saving tool."

Mrs Spicer added: "I am aware of the personal attacks that members of the FBU have levied against me and it has been quite upsetting. However, they will not make the administration change its mind and will have quite the opposite effect."

Meanwhile the national FBU has called for an independent assessment of Government plans to build new regional fire control rooms.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has secured a three-storey building in Cambridge for the east's centre, which will replace existing control rooms - including those in Ipswich and Brentwood.

General secretary of the FBU Matt Wrack said "spiralling" costs would threaten frontline jobs and could lead to higher council taxes.

"We need an independent assessment of these plans before they are allowed to proceed any further," he said.

A spokesman for the ODPM said the Government would not support a policy that would lead to a worse fire service.

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