Don't air dirty laundry in public, plea

SUFFOLK firefighters could walk out – because of a dispute with bosses over dirty laundry.From Monday, fire bosses are threatening to hand out 10 per cent pay-cuts to crews at the Normanshurst station in Lowestoft, who are refusing to wash protective equipment from other stations.

SUFFOLK firefighters could walk out – because of a dispute with bosses over dirty laundry.

From Monday, fire bosses are threatening to hand out 10 per cent pay-cuts to crews at the Normanshurst station in Lowestoft, who are refusing to wash protective equipment from other stations.

Ken Seager, the county's deputy chief fire officer claims the laundering of other crew's PPE – personal protective equipment – is an established practice and part of the job.

But speaking yesterday, FBU secretary Paul Woolstenholmes argued that firefighters have only ever washed the equipment as a goodwill gesture.

He said: "I can't find it anywhere in our job description – they've certainly pulled this one out of the bag.

"Nowhere is it written down that firefighters will do other stations' laundry. They have done in the past, but only out of goodwill.

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"For somebody to threaten 10pc cuts in wages for something that firefighters are not required to do is ridiculous.

"The members are angry. I've been receiving phone calls saying that they are fed up with threats being thrown around, and I'm being told that people are willing to walk on this.

"The impression I'm getting from people is if Lowestoft decide to make a stand then certainly there will be other people walking out across the county.

"I'm not condoning unlawful industrial action – I hope I never see any more in my career – but I'm only passing on what I've been told."

Mr Woolstenholmes said stations at Lowestoft, Newmarket, Bury St Edmunds, Princes Street in Ipswich and fire headquarters, have washing machines – but not all of them wash PPE from other stations.

And he said that, in just three weeks, a total care package is set to come in which will see washing taken on by a contractor.

"It's stirring up a hornet's nest for something that will be resolved in three weeks," he added. "This will spread like wildfire.

"I would have thought that, after a year of disputes, they would want things to go back to normal as soon as possible."

DCFO Seager was shocked that Mr Woolstenholmes had contacted the press rather than arrange a meeting with him to sort out the issue.

He said: "I've written to Mr Woolstenholmes to give him the opportunity to come and resolve the matter by talking to me.

"Instead, the only response I have had is a call from the press. I am not prepared to negotiate with Mr Woolstenholmes through the press – it is not constructive."

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