Merseyside fire strike to begin

Officers, Emergency Fire Control Staff and Firefighters in Merseyside have today voted in favour of strike action by a 82.7% majority.

The first strike has been called by the General Secretary from 09.00 hours on Friday 13 July 2001 until 09.00 hours Saturday 21 July 2001 and will mean that Green Goddesses will be on the streets of Merseyside for the first time since 1995.

The dispute is over Chief Fire Officer Malcolm Saunders’ decision to ignore the unanimous ruling of the National Fire Service Disputes Panel.

Mr. Saunders and the Merseyside Fire and Civil Defence Authority attempted to employ non-uniformed staff in Fire Service Officer posts contrary to all national and local agreements. The Merseyside Fire Brigades Union formally disputed this attempt through the nationally recognised disputes procedure. The Fire Service National Disputes Panel unanimously ruled in favour of the Fire Brigades Union and against the actions of Mr. Saunders and the Fire Authority.

Mr. Saunders has completely ignored the unanimous decision and is continuing with his attempts to employ non-uniformed staff directly into middle-management Fire Officer posts.

Last week the Fire Authority took the Fire Brigades Union to the High Court in a futile attempt to stop our legal ballot. After two days in Court, it became clear that there is a legal trade dispute between the Fire Brigades Union and the Merseyside Fire and Civil Defence Authority. The Fire Authority therefore withdrew their application for an injunction at a cost to Merseyside Council Tax payers of between £60-70,000.

Andy Gilchrist, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union said: “Merseyside FBU members are being forced into taking strike action against a Chief Fire Officer and Fire Authority who have blatantly ignored unanimous decisions of the Fire Service National Disputes Panel. It’s appalling that the Fire Authority are continuing to support their Chief Fire Officer, Malcolm Saunders, in this personal crusade which will put public safety at risk.”

Les Skarratts, Merseyside FBU Brigade Secretary said: “We have tried time and time again to resolve our differences and disputes through the agreed procedures with this Chief Fire Officer. He has complete contempt for the Fire Service National Conditions of Service, his employees and the public of Merseyside. Officers, Emergency Fire Control Operators and Firefighters in Merseyside have unanimously called for Mr. Saunders’ resignation. I am convinced that if he were to resign or be removed by the Fire Authority, this dispute would be easily resolved by the Merseyside Fire and Civil Defence Authority.

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