ESSEX, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - June 27, 2012) - Essex fire crews are set to start an 8-hour strike have accused their managers of being hellbent on confrontation and forcing through dangerous cuts in the frontline 999 service. A short 8-hour strike starts tomorrow at 10.00 and ends at 18.00 to limit the impact on the public.
Essex fire crews are set to commence strike action in a dispute over frontline cuts and changes forced through without proper negotiation or agreement. The frontline cuts, left unchallenged, would hit public and firefighter safety 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
Current plans for cuts would see the loss of one in five frontline crews in Essex since 2008, with the public already waiting longer for fire crews to turn up to fires in the home.
FBU Brigade Chair, Alan Chinn-Shaw said: "No one wants to go on strike, we have only done so in what is a third year of continuing cuts and imposition. Our managers are unbending and unable to broker a deal and our last resort is to take strike action.
"The dispute centres on further damaging cuts and changes imposed on fire crews without agreement which impacts on public and firefighter safety. 160 frontline firefighters have been axed from fire stations since 2008 and the current set of cuts would bring the loss to one in five frontline crews.
"It is already taking longer for fire engines to get to home fires and cuts can only make that worse. The fire authority has the money as it has underspent its frontline staffing budget by over £1.6 million.
"It is also building up huge cash reserves - over £12 million - which are much higher than necessary. Essex MP Eric Pickles has urged all councils to use their financial reserves to temper the impact of frontline cuts.
"Managers have obstructed the use of national fire service conciliators to try and resolve the dispute and have done so since 2009. The fire authority is signed up to that process but their managers have been refusing to follow it.
"The claim that the fire authority has moved on key issues in dispute is not correct. There is no trimming back on the frontline cuts, these are going ahead as are further imposed changes.
"Chief Officer Johnson has made clear that the cuts and imposed changes already decided will still be pushed through and he will not move on this. That position leaves no room for compromise and undermines any talks which take place on that basis.
"We are trying to accommodate their desire to involve ACAS in assisting a resolution. We maintain an open dialogue with ACAS."