Firefighters in Essex are to stage three days of strike action in a dispute over jobs. Members of the Fire Brigades Union will walk out for part of their shift on 14 to 16 January in protest at plans to cut jobs. The industrial action will take the form of short-period strikes and action short of strike.
The union said the county’s brigade is planning to cut up to 200 jobs, reducing the number of firefighters at frontline stations. The plans will also see a reduction of emergency control staff by 20 per cent and detrimental changes to their working practices.
“We are facing cuts of an unprecedented scale.”
“We are facing cuts of an unprecedented scale, resulting in more than a quarter of all frontline firefighter jobs being cut,” said Alan Chinn-Shaw, brigade secretary of the FBU in Essex. “The public will have to wait longer for their local fire engines to arrive in the event of an emergency. It will be impossible to maintain the same safe and professional service we currently provide. The planned job losses, reduction in fire cover and attacks to our working conditions are unacceptable. We recognise the fire service is facing a reduced budget; however, we believe there are alternatives to making such huge cuts to frontline 999 services.”
The fight is in addition to the national dispute over firefighters’ pensions, which remains unresolved. The union says Essex fire chiefs are currently employing approximately 608 firefighters in spite of the fact that the public are paying for 656 firefighters. Firefighter numbers have already been reduced in Essex from 750 to 656 since 2010.
Essex fire chiefs have rejected all compromise solutions to avoid industrial action, so the union says this action is its last option.