Talks aimed at resolving the Essex fire dispute have been abruptly cancelled by managers – an email was found in the inbox of only one local FBU official late last night. No reason was given in the email. Despite attempts by the union to make contact by phone to get an explanation, no return call has yet been received.
The fire authority plans to press ahead with the first set of cuts on 1st October. The Fire Brigades Union has asked for the cuts to be halted while talks take place.
Industrial action consisting of an overtime ban and refusing to perform other voluntary duties continues and has been solidly supported since it commenced on 26th August 2009.
Paul Adams, Essex FBU Secretary said:
“It is astonishing, the talks were meant to take place this morning but I found an email in my inbox late last night cancelling the talks. No manager tried to ring me to let us know and no attempts were made to contact any other FBU official.
“We were told the chief officer was working on some new proposals for today’s meeting. But we can’t resolve the issue if one side won’t talk to the other.
“If there is a genuine reason such as an illness we would be very sympathetic, although given the number of senior managers we have in Essex it would be quite astonishing if the talks were cancelled because of the illness of only one of their negotiating team. But at the moment we do not have any idea as to the reasons or motives behind their cancellation.
“The public of Essex deserve better than this from the very well paid managers of an important public service. The FBU cannot reach an agreement on its own.
“Any agreement will become even more difficult if the cuts are implemented on 1st October. The trenches will get deeper and the temperature of the dispute will rise.
“The fire authority’s claim that no frontline cuts are happening will be nailed as nonsense if they press ahead. They won’t be able to hide what they are doing or pretend it isn’t happening.
“The first wave of frontline cuts take place in Colchester, Leigh, Chelmsford, Harlow and then at Basildon or Grays. There will be too few firefighters to crew all of the County’s specialist high-reach and rescue vehicles at these fire stations.
“On October 1st the smoke and mirrors to hide cuts will be blown away. We have asked the fire authority to put these cuts on hold while the talks take place.”