Three more fire strikes revealed

UNION bosses announced three further fire strikes in Suffolk as more than 250 firefighters from across the UK marched in protest at job cuts in the brigade.

UNION bosses announced three further fire strikes in Suffolk as more than 250 firefighters from across the UK marched in protest at job cuts in the brigade.

Firefighters from as far as Northern Ireland, Scotland and Devon took part in yesterday's march through Ipswich town centre to show their defiance against a decision to axe 12 specialist jobs operating the turntable ladder at Bury St Edmunds.

The noisy procession, led by a fire engine and a wall of police officers, left Princes Street Fire Station in the town at 2pm and snaked its way through town centre streets before arriving on the Cornhill.

Vince Jell, chairman of the Suffolk Fire Brigades' Union, was greeted by screeching horns and whistles as he prepared to address the gathered protestors and shoppers who had stopped to watch.

He told them talks between the union and local authority on Tuesday had failed to solve the dispute and announced three new strike dates.

These will be on August 19 between 7pm and 10pm, August 20 from 2pm until 7pm and August 21 between 3pm and 7pm.

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Mr Jell told the crowd: "No firefighter wants to have to resort to strike action but there comes a time when a stand has to be taken.

"Now, with all your support, we can get this authority to see sense and keep the firefighters and keep Suffolk safer for all of us."

Mr Jell said the job losses in Bury represented a 24% cut in the total number of staff at the station.

"Already this is a cut too far," he said.

The protestors wore T-shirts emblazoned with the words 'Cuts Kill' and many carried placards or banners calling for no more cuts.

Firefighters in Lisbon, Portugal, even sent a message of support and solidarity to the marchers.

And a fresh row erupted last night after it emerged fire service bosses had decided to cancel a training day in Ipswich to familiarise staff with the turntable ladder.

Firefighters claim the training day was cancelled because it was considered politically insensitive to bring the turntable ladder from Bury to Ipswich on the day of a protest about job cuts.

Speaking after yesterday's rally, Mr Jell said: "It's just another fly in the ointment. Crews at Bury were very angry that training should be stopped wholly because we are highlighting that the turntable ladder crew will not be available in the future."

However a county council spokeswoman denied the cancellation of the training day was politically motivated.

She said: "We have got one turntable ladder in the county now, as the other one is off the road being repaired.

"It makes sense to keep it available to attend a fire if needed. You could argue it would be irresponsible to take it off the road."

Four calls were made to the fire service during the industrial action between 4pm and 7pm, which saw 12 of the county's 35 fire stations out of action.

At 4.39pm there was a call to a smouldering bin in Alexandra Park, Ipswich, which two officers attended but the fire had burnt itself out.

A retained fire crew from Mildenhall was called to an overheating car engine on the A14 at junction 37 at 5.45pm, which they took 15 minutes to deal with.

Then at 6.28pm two officers and a retained fire crew from Woodbridge went to a children's den on fire in a cherry tree on the Rushmere Road recreation ground, Ipswich. No people were reported at the scene and the incident was under control just before 7.10pm. There was also a false alarm in Bungay.

Firefighter Dave Chappell had travelled with colleagues from Devon to join yesterday's protest.

"We believe they are doing the right thing. We know because we have been on strike as well, so we no just how they're feeling," he said.

Chris Ziajka, a firefighter in Cornwall, added: "Hopefully the council will see sense and change their stance on what they're proposing," he said.

"We have been to a number of rallies in the past and councils have changed their minds and seen sense."

Adrian Mayhew, secretary of the Suffolk FBU, said politicians should be increasing the service not making cuts.

"The population is growing, everything is expanding, apart from our public services."

The Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said the number of people who turned up for the march fell short of the 500 to 2,000 expected.

"This is meant to be a national march showing solidarity. It doesn't show a huge amount of support," she said.

"From our point of view it's still about investing in community safety, reducing the number of fires and protecting people."

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