Essex firefighters and 999 control staff will begin strike action at 09.00 today (Wednesday) in their continuing fight against huge frontline cuts to the fire and rescue service in Essex.
Essex County Fire and Rescue Authority (ECFRA) plan to cut at least 179 firefighters and control staff resulting in a 20% reduction in full time uniformed firefighters.
Despite FBU members working with the local fire service to try and find acceptable solutions to the Westminster government funding crisis, the fire authority has chosen to push ahead with its cuts.
Alan Chin-Shaw, secretary of the FBU in Essex, said: “On top of previous cuts since 2010, we now face a staggering further 20% cut in frontline firefighters serving at Essex fire stations and a 20% cut in emergency 999 fire control staff.
“Compromise proposals, that we put forward, were rejected even though they achieved the savings needed and increased productivity targets that the service wants.
“Instead the fire chiefs have imposed unacceptable changes that do not save a penny more or deliver any improvements in service to the public.”
Keith Handscomb, executive council member for the FBU in Essex, said: “Essex Fire and Rescue Authority will be putting people’s lives at risk with these cuts. They will trot out statistics but the fact is more than three people are rescued from emergencies by Essex fire fighters every day. That is three people every day in Essex who cannot afford any cuts in frontline fire and rescue services.
“Our message is simple – support your firefighters, the next life we save could be yours.”
Riccardo La Torre, chair of the FBU in Essex, said: “This first wave of cuts also have a serious impact on the working lives of the emergency control staff who are on the frontline dealing with 999 calls from the public.
“They also disrupt the domestic lives of the many control staff with caring responsibilities that they must fit around working day and night shifts. The vast majority of control staff in the Essex control are women.
“The rejection of compromise proposals shows the assurances and constant platitudes from fire chiefs and councillors about how highly they value the tremendous work of their frontline professionals are completely hollow.”
The series of short strikes – some only an hour long – have been called for 14,15 and 16 January. The strikes would total 29 hours but fire chiefs have decided to lock out striking firefighters continuously for the whole three days so they can stop even more pay as punishment. That means fire chiefs themselves have decided to remove fire cover from the public continuously for the whole three days.
The plans will see the number of wholetime firefighters serving at frontline fire stations further reduced.
Full time firefighter numbers have already been cut in Essex from 750 to 656 since 2010.
The plans will also see a reduction of emergency control staff by 20% and detrimental changes to their working practices.