Unions head to head in latest fire fight

RELATIONS between members of the two firefighting unions in the county have become strained since strikes started, claims the Secretary of the Retained Firefighters Union.

RELATIONS between members of the two firefighting unions in the county have become strained since strikes started, claims the Secretary of the Retained Firefighters Union.

John Barton, of the RFU, said that since the strikes started friendships in fire stations across the county have been damaged.

But Paul Woolstenholmes, of the Fire Brigades Union, denied the claim and said that firefighters were still working professionally alongside each other and were not hostile.

Mr Barton said: "Previously good relationships have been strained by this and that is to be expected.

"It is a shame - lets hope that this will be resolved as soon as possible to rebuild friendships.

"I have no animosity to those people on the other side, I try to be as understanding as I can, they feel aggrieved and that is why they are still in dispute."

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But Mr Woolstenholmes said: "The only time you meet them is on the job and we are professionals. I was on a road traffic accident the other day. I didn't see anything strained or hostile."

In the FBU's latest proposed 24 hour strike action on Thursday, the RFU, who are not striking, said they were very 'disappointed' at the FBU's 'reckless and irresponsible' action.

The national general secretary of the RFU Derek Chadbon said:

"The RFU is very disappointed to hear that the fire service is going to be damaged further by this nonsensical action by another union.

"The union lost the dispute before Christmas and the only salvation they have is if the government bans strikes in the fire service and for the union to be seen as a martyr.

"The dispute is not the RFU's dispute but is having an effect on our members.

"Two-thirds of the retained personnel have not taken strike action thus far and the figure will increase due to the realisation that this type of action is reckless, irresponsible and getting the FBU nowhere," said Mr Chabdon.

Mr Barton, a retained firefighter in Wickhambrook, near Haverhill, said: "Most people would have thought 16 per cent would have been quite a good deal.

"The firefighters I have spoken to over the last couple of days, they're completely mystified why people are still taking part in strikes when an offer like this has been put on the table. Quite obviously they are not supporting it like they have in the past."

Mr Woolstenholmes claimed the RFU did not represent anybody. "They don't negotiate on behalf of anybody, they are not recognised by employers and the government."

He added that the RFU did not represent all of the retained firefighters.

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