FBU accuses Essex management of making “bizarre” decision that endangers the public

FBU members in Essex on strike, 2015

FBU members in Essex on strike, 2015

Firefighters in Essex are this evening being sent home without pay in what the FBU has described as a “punishment” for going on strike.

FBU members are going on strike tomorrow night over plans to cut 179 firefighter and 999 control jobs across Essex, Southend and Thurrock.

But fire chiefs have today decided to send all firefighters home from 6pm until 9am on Monday, meaning that instead of the local community being without their professional 999 fire cover for 15 hours of strike, they will be without cover for more than 63 hours.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack has written to the Essex Fire Service asking them to reverse this decision.

FBU Essex secretary Alan Chinn-Shaw said: “The decision to lock out the normal professional fire crews flies in the face of the fire authority’s legal duty to provide a safe and efficient fire and rescue service to the public.  This strike is perfectly legal, but there is no legal requirement for the fire chiefs to lock fire crews out for the entire weekend.”

Essex firefighters have offered to be recalled to duty during strike periods if a major incident occurred, but the authority have declined their offer.

If the cuts go through unchallenged it will mean the public waiting longer for the first fire crew to arrive, typically with too few firefighters on board to immediately commence rescue operations, and then waiting longer for the next fire crews to come from further away.  In an emergency, every second counts.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service have already been missing key response time targets as a result of cuts made, while senior management are calling for these targets to be ‘relaxed’.

The same frontline firefighters play a vital dual role. They carry out invaluable prevention work in their communities and yet are still needed to respond to the thousands of 999 emergencies that still occur each year in Essex, Southend and Thurrock.

The efficiency of the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is being further compromised by their having to use an out of date mobilising system, the means by which fire crews are sent out to respond to incidents.  A new modern system was installed at great cost earlier this year but it crashed and has yet to be fixed.

Alan Chinn-Shaw said: “Striking is a last resort, and we are committed to continuing negotiations but service managers are showing no sign whatever of compromise.  They remain intent on imposing unworkable conditions that put firefighters and public safety at risk.

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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