Five new fire strikes called in Suffolk

FIREFIGHTERS in Suffolk last night called five new strikes in their battle against job cuts in the brigade.But the county's Fire Brigades Union (FBU) also revealed it was set for talks with employers next week in a bid to halt further industrial action.

By Jonathan Barnes

FIREFIGHTERS in Suffolk last night called five new strikes in their battle against job cuts in the brigade.

But the county's Fire Brigades Union (FBU) also revealed it was set for talks with employers next week in a bid to halt further industrial action.

The union, which staged its second walk-out last night, announced three-hour strikes for August 17 and October 3, 10, 17 and 24.


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FBU members are also due to hold two strikes next week over plans to cut 12 specialist jobs at Bury St Edmunds, operating one of the brigade's turntable ladders.

Vince Jell, secretary of Suffolk FBU, said last night he had received an invitation from Joanna Spicer, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for public protection, for a meeting on Tuesday.

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"We are very pleased to have received the invitation and we are looking forward to having meaningful talks - hopefully they can be the basis of bringing an end to this dispute," he said.

Mrs Spicer said she had received a letter from the FBU requesting a meeting and was "very pleased" to set up next week's summit.

She refused to comment on whether the authority's position had changed on the job losses.

It has claimed the total numbers of job losses from the restructure would be three, all through natural wastage, and the other nine firefighters dedicated to manning the turntable ladder would be re-deployed to fire prevention work or providing cover for rural stations.

Meanwhile, it has also emerged that fire authority chiefs are investigating complaints about the conduct of striking firefighters during Monday's three-hour walk-out.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said: "We can confirm we have had three formal complaints regarding the behaviour of FBU members during the first period of strike action and we are investigating those."

The council is understood to have had other complaints but staff have been unwilling to make those formal investigations.

Mr Jell said: "As far as the FBU is concerned, all picket lines were well-mannered and well-behaved and we will have to look into these allegations."

Eleven stations were closed as a result of last night's strike, between 5pm and 7pm.

Those closed were Bury St Edmunds, Felixstowe, Ipswich (Colchester Road headquarters and Princes Street), Lowestoft Normanshurst, Newmarket, Eye, Stradbroke, Wrentham, Sudbury and Hadleigh.

The brigade's retained firefighters remained on duty across the county, manning 24 of the county's 35 stations.

MoD firefighters were on back-up and based in Ipswich, Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds.

During the two hours, retained firefighters attended just one incident - a paper bank fire which a crew from Needham Market dealt with.

Elmswell firefighters also went an automated alarm at Rougham, which turned out to be a false alarm.

John Barton, Suffolk secretary for the Retained Firefighters Union, said: "Outside of the main towns, the majority of Suffolk is covered by community-based retained crews.

"We have a no-strike policy and we have continued to work through what is a very difficult time."

FBU members are due to strike again on Monday, between 7am and 10am, and on Thursday, between 4pm and 7pm.

The strike on August 17 will be between 6pm and 9pm and the proposed industrial action on the dates in October will be between 7am and 10am.

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