Unions fight it out in fire dispute

UNIONS representing part-time firefighters were today at daggers' drawn as the ballot on possible industrial action continues.Members of the Fire Brigades Union – which is balloting its members on possible action – and the Retained Firefighters' Union, which has a no-strike constitution, were involved in a new bout of name-calling.

UNIONS representing part-time firefighters were today at daggers' drawn as the ballot on possible industrial action continues.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union – which is balloting its members on possible action – and the Retained Firefighters' Union, which has a no-strike constitution, were involved in a new bout of name-calling.

The latest salvo was launched by the Norfolk-based RFU, which claims to represent about a quarter of retained (part-time) firefighters.

It said a claim by the FBU to represent 65 to 91 per cent of retained firefighters was untrue. "Many non-FBU members have received ballot papers," a statement from the RFU said. "Ballot papers are now being sent calling for a national fire service strike and many are being received by personnel not entitled to vote."

The RFU also insisted the pay claim would not benefit part-time firefighters – and that the FBU wanted to replace all part-timers with full-time firefighters.

"Retained support for the FBU is like turkeys voting for Christmas," the RFU said.

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However, Paul Woolsten-holmes, Suffolk secretary of the FBU, dismissed the claims.

He said: "The RFU is not a union – it's not recognised by anyone else and it doesn't negotiate with the employers. It's just an organisation of parasites.

"We are fighting for retained firefighters – we are seeking a £7,500 basic retained fee for them and improved pay when they are called out, bringing them up to the full-time rate.

"The FBU represents all firefighters: full-time, retained, control staff and officers. We remain very strong and are picking up many new members."