Firefighters make jobs loss claim

FIREFIGHTERS have accused Suffolk County Council of misleading the public over the extent of job losses in the brigade on the eve of a second strike.Suffolk's Fire Brigade's Union (FBU) will take further industrial action tomorrow between 5pm and 7pm in protest at a decision to axe 12 specialist jobs operating the turntable ladder at Bury St Edmunds.

FIREFIGHTERS have accused Suffolk County Council of misleading the public over the extent of job losses in the brigade on the eve of a second strike.

Suffolk's Fire Brigade's Union (FBU) will take further industrial action tomorrow between 5pm and 7pm in protest at a decision to axe 12 specialist jobs operating the turntable ladder at Bury St Edmunds.

And, as the second strike looms large, they have accused Suffolk County Council of not giving the public the whole picture about the losses - claiming six jobs, rather than three, will actually be lost in the shake up.

The changes were made as part of this year's Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP) with the council saying only three jobs would be lost and nine saved.


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The council said four posts would be created to address community fire safety issues, two for research and data input and the final three deployed wherever necessary to help out in rural areas where there was a shortage of firefighters.

However the FBU has claimed that in fact only six jobs will be saved and they will be largely desk-bound rather than frontline firefighting posts.

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They add the three rural posts will be shared out among existing firefighters on top of their normal 42-hour week.

Joanna Spicer, Suffolk County Council portfolio holder for public protection, has denied the accusations, saying that the assumptions are inaccurate.

Vince Jell, Suffolk FBU brigade secretary, told the EADT last night: "The council have to come clean and admit they are only switching six of the jobs.

"The other three do not actually exist, it is simply a paper exercise requiring our members to take on the extra work of three invisible firefighters.

"The posts will deal with deficiencies in rural areas but are not new. Existing firefighters will be put on short-term contracts to cover where we are short.

"Therefore in theory there could be any number of firefighters all doing what would amount to the equivalent of three full time posts."

He continued: "The council is not giving the people of Suffolk the full picture about what they are doing. It's a spin on words. The new posts may well be trained for the frontline but only as a last resort.

"Axing the 12 frontline posts means they don't commit new money to prevention or community safety. "It's a half-measure to fill in for previous cuts in prevention and community safety.

"This is not about change or modernisation, it is about old fashioned cuts in council services. These cuts make our work less safe and the public less safe and they have to stop."

However Mrs Spicer denied the claims, saying the FBU were being "disingenuous" with their interpretations.

She said: "We have quite categorically not misled the public. We have been open and honest with the people of Suffolk and I am confident that the decisions and investment have been right.

"We are committed to the three rural posts and there is money already budgeted to ensure it happens.

"These posts are full time equivalents but they do not necessarily have to be filled as full time posts. "They could be a mix of full time and part time should we be asked by applicants to consider this when we do recruit.

"We are currently going through a recruitment programme and have invested £300,000 in the fire service so it is not about cuts.

"The interpretation by the FBU is disingenuous and they are incorrect in the assumptions they are making."

She added: "The important thing with the other fire prevention work is that the new posts will be staffed by operational fire fighters who will attend fires and road traffic accidents in the county when necessary.

"We have received assurances from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Audit Commission and the Inspector of Fire Safety that what we are doing is right. The only objections have come from the FBU themselves."

Further strikes are planned on Monday between 7am to 10am and on August 11 between 4pm and 7pm.

Retained firefighters will remain on duty and backup will be provided by Ministry of Defence (MoD) firefighters.

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