Union fury over firefighter sacking

The Fire Brigades Union has accused Merseyside fire authority of victimization after a union official was sacked. Kevin Hughes, a firefighter at Whiston fire station, was accused of assaulting the son of a strikebreaker in a pub in July 2008.

Mr Hughes was arrested by police who investigated the allegations. Mr Hughes always denied the charges and none were brought because of a lack of evidence.

The fire authority suspended Mr Hughes in July last year and carried out their own investigation led by Mr Mark Schuler. Mr Schuler, an ex police officer now employed by the fire authority, had taken the complainant to the police station in an attempt to bring criminal charges.

The complainant’s father Steven Pratt, a serving senior fire officer, met and discussed the case with Mr Hagen, then deputy chief fire officer two days after the alleged incident. Mr Hagen, now acting chief fire officer, was going to hear the case until the Fire Brigades Union complained that he could not fairly hear it.

The fire authority case was heard by strikebreaker Kieran Timmins. Mr Timmins, who has never been a firefighter, put on firefighting kit during the dispute and worked on the small fires unit van with others who became known as the “fantasy firefighters”.

Mr Timmins heard the case and reached the verdict.

Regional secretary Kevin Brown said: “There were no independent witnesses to support the case brought against fire fighter Kevin Hughes. The police were brought in and after an intensive investigation brought no charges.

“The deputy chief fire officer who was originally to hear the case was himself a strikebreaker. The case was heard and decided by Kieran Timmins who was also a strikebreaker.

“The fire authority brought a weak case with no independent witnesses and no other evidence. There were 17 witnesses for Kevin, some of whom were independent witnesses.

“Firefighter Kevin Hughes was required to face a case investigated by an ex police officer employed by the fire authority and heard and decided by a strikebreaker. This is the sort of ‘justice’ you could expect in a tinpot dictatorship, not on Merseyside.

“This is a Labour controlled fire authority victimising Kevin Hughes because he was a union official . The overwhelming evidence was in Kevin’s favour but he has been sacked.

“Merseyside firefighters are sickened by this treatment. They will be considering all options open to them in response.”

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