Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

June 30, 2009 05:44 ET

Essex Fire Crews to Ballot for Industrial Action Short of a Strike After Fire Authority Fail to Budge on Cuts Plans

ESSEX, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - June 30, 2009) - Essex fire crews and officers are to press ahead with a ballot for industrial action short of a strike after the fire authority failed to shelve plans to cut firefighters. A last minute meeting also failed to secure a commitment from managers to negotiate other changes rather than impose them.

The talks took place despite the fire authority's failure to respond to the union lodging a trade dispute setting out the items of concern. The union had given 10 days to respond, more than the 7 required by law, but no response was made and no assurances were given.

Both sides have agreed to further talks although the fire authority refuses to reconsider its decision to press ahead with cuts. Ballot papers will be sent out next week.

The Fire Brigades Union said the fire authority is targeting frontline fire crews for cuts rather than looking at genuine efficiency savings. It called for a joint review of the balance between office based activities and the 999 emergency response with a view to redeploying resources to fire stations.

Essex Fire and Rescue Service is set to implement a rolling programme of cuts to the frontline 999 emergency response service. The result will be fewer firefighters spread more thinly across Essex, leaving too few firefighters on duty to crew all the fire engines.

The Fire Authority proposes to cut the number of firefighters by "managed vacancies" from 954 firefighters in December 2008, to an average of 940 during 2008/9, to 920 during 2009/10, to 905 in March 2010.

Forty four of those jobs - one in ten of the frontline fire station based crews - would go by changing the way higher reach aerial ladder platforms and rescue tenders are crewed. The impact would be there would not be enough firefighters to crew all appliances, even if they were needed in a 999 emergency.

The union has also objected to a number of other changes which it says local managers are trying to impose rather than negotiate. The Fire Authority has been told of the decision to press ahead with the ballot.

Paul Adams, Essex FBU Brigade Secretary and firefighter at Grays said: "The fire authority has not responded in any way and no assurances have been given. They have had plenty of time and they have no excuse.

"The union has been trying to avoid a ballot for many weeks. We have been urging the fire authority to stop imposing changes and to adopt a joint approach and reach agreement.

"Both sides have agreed to further talks to see if we can reach an agreement. Those talks will be difficult because the fire authority will not even reconsider its decision to press ahead with cuts to frontline services.

"Essex firefighters and officers are happy to look at where genuine savings can be found rather than target the frontline 999 service for cuts. There is a real danger that frontline crews will be spread far too thinly across the County.

"The fire authority wants to force cuts through without honest consultation. They also want to continue to impose a range of other changes without agreement which was always a recipe for a ballot.

"No one wanted to start a ballot and we delayed triggering the move so we could have some further talks. These took place, but we were not given the assurances about the frontline cuts and other changes we were seeking.

"We are happy to negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement, but that cannot be done when change is simply being imposed and the fire authority refuses to reconsider the cuts. Any industrial action is weeks away and that time needs to be used in constructive talks to resolve the issues.

"The fire authority needs to be very clear we are heading for a ballot and there will be a 'yes' vote for industrial action. I would urge them to enter meaningful talks rather than raise false hopes followed by delaying tactics, because those won't work."

The required legal process involves the General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union writing to the Clerk of the Fire Authority. No other official from the union or the fire authority can send or receive such official notifications.

Contact Information

  • Media contacts:
    Mick Rogers
    07967 023709
    Keith Flynn
    07956 459111
    Paul Adams
    07967 720363