Picket line

Mother’s day strike: Essex fire control operators fighting against women being forced out of the workplace

Fire control operators in Essex will be on strike throughout mother’s day this Sunday in a dispute which has forced women and mothers out of the workplace.

Essex Country Fire and Rescue Service imposed a radically changed shift system that means control operators are forced to work 12 hour shifts, despite proposals from the FBU of cost neutral alternatives.

Riccardo la Torre, chair of the FBU in Essex, said: “Essex County Fire and Rescue Service like to portray themselves as a modern employer. However here they are forcing professional women out of their jobs and making life intolerable for many of those who remain.

“The vast majority of the control operators are women, many with young families and caring responsibilities. They have professional careers that they need to balance with their family lives.

“These shift changes are unfair and completely unnecessary.”

Alan Chinn-Shaw, secretary of the FBU in Essex, said: “Public support has been tremendous. We have been inundated with messages wishing ‘Happy Mothers Day’ to the control staff striking today.

“Essex County Fire and Rescue Service need to come back around the table and negotiate. There are cost neutral alternatives which would go a long way toward resolving this dispute.”

The strike comes as the new REMSDAQ IT system used to mobilise fire engines has failed numerous time putting public safety at risk.

Jo Byrne, who represents FBU control members nationally, said: “The new system implemented in Essex is simply not fit for purpose and is indicative of many of the new fire emergency mobilising systems being brought in throughout the UK.

“New mobilising systems are not being tested thoroughly enough before they are implemented, as has been the case in Essex.

“Control mobilising systems are a lifesaving resource when operated by a professional and knowledgeable staff. The fire and rescue service owe it to the public and control operators to get it right.

“The safety of the public, our top priority, is being put at risk.”

Just in the past few days worrying IT failures have led to incidents in Basildon, Colchester and Orsett where rescues have been delayed.

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