Intimidation claim by firefighters

STRIKING firefighters who answered emergency calls earlier this week have been subjected to intimidation tactics according to the Fire Brigades Union.

By Nick Richards

P15 lead


STRIKING firefighters who answered emergency calls earlier this week have been subjected to intimidation tactics according to the Fire Brigades Union.

Around 100 firefighters at the Princes Street headquarters in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket worked to rule between 2pm on Monday and 9am yesterday morning.

Most Read

In this time they answered emergency calls only, but according to Paul Woolstenholmes, county secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) striking firefighters feel as if they have been subject to intimidation tactics.

They allege that earlier this week, Assistant Divisional Officers were asked to take names of all those involved in the temporary working to rule action.

Mr Woolstenholmes said: "Nobody knows why the names were taken or who ordered it but there must be some reason for it. Nobody has told us why so we can only guess that it is some kind of intimidation tactic or is possibly linked to a seizure of pay."

In response, Ken Seager, Deputy Chief Fire Officer said: "The order to take down names came from the Fire Authority who asked for an indication of who was working and who was not. This was to ascertain staff numbers."

Mr Woolstenholmes also disputed the fact that the new £30,000 wage for firefighters would lead to an £80 hike in annual council tax bills.

That figure had been quoted to the Evening Star by Peter Monk of Suffolk County Council as an indication of how costs would be met by tax payers.

Mr Woolstenholmes said: "I don't know where the figure of an extra £80 on the council tax bill comes from – it sounds like scaremongering. That kind of figure would only apply if our pay was going to quadruple!"

He said the budget for the fire service currently stood at £20.45 million. After the desired 39 per cent wage increase, this would move up to £26.98m and if council tax payers footed the entire bill, it would result in an increase of £22.20 per household, increasing from £69 to £91.20 per household or from £30.12 to £39.82 per person per year.

In a further illustration of how far firefighters have fallen behind in terms of pay, the FBU did a survey comparing their annual pay with that of an MP.

At the time of the last strike in 1978, an MP earned £6,897 while a firefighter earned £4,606. In 2002, a firefighter earns £21,531 compared to an MP's salary of £55,118.

In 1978 a firefighter earned roughly two thirds of an MP's salary which means a firefighter would be on over £36,000 today if the amounts had both risen at the same rate.

Peter Monk, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for public protection issued a statement yesterday about the prospect of strike action.

He said: "Clearly we do not want to see any local unofficial industrial action taking place, because Suffolk has no argument with its firefighters.

"The Government has offered an independent inquiry into the pay claim and that is a course of action we would support. Both the employers and the FBU realise that the current pay formula is outdated and needs to be changed and an independent panel could examine the situation and offer a solution, which seems to me to be the best way to go.

"We still hope that the dispute can be resolved without recourse to strike

action, but we are considering contingency plans in case the worst happens."