Union hits back at fire chief's claims

A UNION representing the firefighters of Essex has hit back at claims by the county's chief fire officer that offensive material was sent to his children during industrial action.

Annie Davidson

A UNION representing the firefighters of Essex has hit back at claims by the county's chief fire officer that offensive material was sent to his children during industrial action.

David Johnson made the claims when he was discussing the current dispute with the Essex Fire Brigade's Union (FBU) which is based on changes in shift patterns, staff numbers and frontline equipment.

The ongoing row has seen firefighters taking action including refusing to work overtime or 'acting up' to cover for senior colleagues.

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Mr Johnson said last week that the dispute had been “very acrimonious” and had included instances of offensive material abut him and members of his team being put up in fire stations, as well as posted to his home to his children aged eight and ten.

The FBU yesterday said the claims were “a smokescreen” to divert attention away from the ongoing dispute and recent further plans to cut firefighters.

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FBU Regional secretary Adrian Clarke said yesterday: “The claims are astonishing. If the union made claims of this magnitude we would have to provide evidence to support them.

“These are not just an attack on the union but on every union member in Essex who might feel the claims are also directed at them.

“It is an astonishing claim for a chief officer to make against those he is meant to be leading.

“Mr Johnson made similar allegations to the union last summer. The FBU asked him to provide evidence to support his allegations and the union would investigate them.

“To date he has provided no evidence that these incidents happened at all despite his claim these materials had been delivered to his home.

“There is no evidence these claims have been reported to the police, although these are potentially criminal acts.”

Mr Clarke continued: “We believe this is simply a smokescreen to divert attention away from the current dispute and the cuts to frontline services that made in Essex since last year.

“Mr Johnson has just released plans to cut more frontline jobs over the next year by another 30 posts while employing even more people in the IT and personnel departments at corporate level.

“The result is that the Essex public will be paying for 954 firefighters but only getting 890.

“This can only be considered a cut in an already stretched service that has seen response time targets missed and response times fall since last year as a result of the cuts.

“Mr Johnson scrapped all the consultative committees that help to consult and negotiate service policy and procedures and ensure that the equipment and procedures that Essex County Fire and Rescue uses are the most robust and that equipment is tested fully before being used operationally. This effectively ends meaningful consultation and negotiation within Essex and is breaking away from national guidelines on consultation and negotiation.

“There is nothing constructive to end the current dispute and will only strengthen the FBU's position in defending the public and firefighters of Essex. We ask that he simply agrees to the involvement of the NJC Joint Secretaries in providing third party negotiation.”

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service declined to comment last night but previously said the positions were vacant posts and no-one would be made redundant.

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