Merseyside fire crews to ballot for strike action over cuts to fire engines and loss of one in ten full-time firefighter posts
Merseyside fire crews are to hold a strike ballot over plans to cut 120 emergency response firefighter posts, 15 emergency fire control operator posts and axe four fire engines at night time. There will be cuts at night, fewer rescue appliances, fewer firefighters on fire engines and a longer wait for crews to arrive to all 999 emergencies.
The loss of one in ten fulltime firefighter posts – in addition to the 68 posts lost last year - will inevitably damage the overall operational capability of the Merseyside fire and rescue service. Fire crews say this will clearly compromise their safety and the safety of the public. Fire engines would be axed at night at stations St Helens, Birkenhead, Bootle and Netherton and the Liverpool City Centre.
The fire authority has been given seven days notice of the intention to start balloting for strike action, a process likely to start on 28 July with a result due around three weeks later. With another 7 days notice of strike action having to be given after that, any possible strike action could not take place until the end of August.
Merseyside FBU secretary Les Skarratts said: “Talks aimed at avoiding a dispute have been well mannered but they have run into the sand. Councillors and senior managers are determined to push through these cuts and Merseyside fire crews are equally determined to stop them. You cannot lose one in ten full time posts – on top of the 68 lost last year – and that not have an effect. The view of professional fire crews in Merseyside is that these cuts will impact on our safety and the safety of the public.
“Merseyside fire crews will be much more thinly spread. Back up crews will take longer to arrive in support affecting our ability to do our jobs at emergency incidents. Fire crews could be left in the impossible position of standing back and doing nothing until the necessary resources arrive and risking the public, or ignoring basic safety procedures and risking themselves. That is a disgraceful position to put rescue crews in.
“We are meeting fire authority councillors on 26 July and they will have an opportunity to re-think these cuts. No one wants strike action and no one is rushing into strike action. If councillors are prepared to drop their hardline stance then strike action does not become an issue. We are prepared to meet councillors and senior managers anytime and any place to try and resolve this. If they have an offer to make which they think may resolve the dispute then they should not delay, they should make it directly and make it quickly.”