MP backs firefighters

FIREFIGHTERS taking part in industrial action as part of a county-wide protest have been given the backing of their MP.

Annie Davidson

FIREFIGHTERS taking part in industrial action as part of a county-wide protest have been given the backing of their MP.

Fire crews based in Colchester are among those taking part in the action led by the Fire Brigade's Union (FBU) against changes to crewing arrangements by Essex Fire Authority.

The union claims this had led to a cut in front-line firefighters - something fire bosses deny - and most recently called on members to refuse secondary contracts and also outlaw any work agreements which do not conform to national conditions of the service.

Now fire crews have met with the town's MP Bob Russell who gave them their backing but urged the FBU and the fire authority to work together to settle the dispute.

Mr Russell said that during his visit he was told the number of firefighters based at the Cowdray Avenue station had dropped from 72 to 60.

Most Read

Mr Russell said: "To my mind that cannot be described as anything other than a cut in the number of fire-fighters in Colchester, and I understand there have been similar reductions elsewhere in Essex.

"My sole concern is that the people and town of Colchester - the fastest-growing borough in the country - have the best possible cover to deal with fires and other emergencies.

"A cut of 12 fire-fighters is not acceptable.”

He added that earlier in the year he had attended a briefing at Essex County Fire and Rescue Headquarters where assurances were given that there would be no redundancies in front-line staff or a reduction in cover.

Mr Russell added: “I understand that while the former promise has been honoured, the reduction of 12 staff has been achieved by not replacing those who have left - the stark reality is that there are now 12 fewer fire-fighters in Colchester; each shift has seen its strength reduced by three people to 15.

“However one looks at the situation, this represents a cut in front line fire-fighting cover in Colchester.”

But Chief Fire Officer David Johnson blamed the dispute on the "egos" of some of the Essex FBU leadership and added: "The time has come for the FBU leadership to accept that the changes they have sought to derail have already been implemented and the service has maintained business as usual despite the dispute and will continue to do so.

"These individuals simply expect their members to continue with the sacrifices they are making for a dispute that is clearly going nowhere.

"The time has come for the FBU leadership to accept the changes and consider the well being of their members.

"In not allowing firefighters to take temporary promotions or to work overtime, the only people being hit by this action are the very firefighters and officers the FBU claims to represent.

"In the run up to Christmas, firefighters and officers are losing money for a lost cause.”

n Fire crews are due to lobby a meeting of the fire authority this morning at County Hall in Chelmsford.

Control room staff, officers and firefighters will gather from 9.30am to continue their protests against changes in crewing arrangements.