Ballot papers are going out to Essex fire crews this week in a strike vote over unnecessary frontline cuts and changes imposed without agreement. The ballot starts on Wednesday 23rd May and closes on 13 June. The law then requires at least seven days notice of any strike action after that date.
Essex Fire Brigades Union is writing today directly to Councillor Tony Hedley, chair of Essex fire authority, seeking his agreement to lift the block on allowing the national fire service conciliators and ACAS to work together on a possible way forward for conciliated talks.
The union says the ballot is necessary because the fire authority is imposing changes whilst also planning further cuts. 100 full-time fire station based crews have been axed since 2008 with retained ‘on call’ crews cut by 60. Further cuts now being planned will bring total losses of around one in five frontline firefighters since 2008.
Backroom staffing has risen by 7.5% – from 238 in 2008 to 256 today. The latest budget review shows underspends of £1.3 million on wholetime firefighters, £206,000 on retained and £136,000 on control firefighters.
Mick Rogers FBU brigade secretary said: “Essex fire crews are furious at what is going on and will be giving their verdict on cuts and imposed changes. Managers need to get their heads out of the sand and realise the strength of feeling..
“There is still time enough to resolve the issues between us and we are now asking the Chair to the Fire Authority to use his good offices to remove the barriers to serious talks getting underway. But if there is no genuine intention or positive moves to resolve the very real concerns of the frontline professionals then strike action becomes an ever increasing prospect.
“Essex fire crews are united and very determined on this matter. This is not the small group of disgruntled militants the chief’s PR team is suggesting, but a huge swell of opposition.
“No firefighter ever wants to take strike action but it will happen if things go on like this. I’d urge the Fire Authority to wake up, understand the strong views of their own crews and kick start talks to resolve this dispute.”
Mick Rogers 07967 – 023709
Alan Chinn-Shaw 07967 – 720363
Nick Mayes 07917 – 065870
Derek Godfrey-Shaw 07967 – 023706