Emergency control staff from Essex were in parliament on budget day Wednesday lobbying MPs over anti-family working shifts whilst also highlighting public safety fears over failing IT mobilising systems.
It coincided with the end of a nine day strike in Essex over an imposed work shift system which has meant their day shift has been extended from nine to 12 hours despite there being cost-neutral alternatives on the table.
The 12-hour shifts severely affect those emergency control staff who have child caring responsibilities and has led to some mothers being forced out of the workplace.
Former fire minister, Baroness Angela Smith, said: “The Essex emergency control staff I met today in Westminster are very impressive women who just want to do the job they love whilst still being able to support their families. In 2015 this should not be too much to ask or for any reasonable employer to provide.
“I am extremely concerned at the impact these new shift work changes are having on the women and their families – they have been prepared to discuss this and negotiate so why won’t the Essex Fire and Rescue Service discuss a more reasonable way forward.
“It’s no way to treat loyal, dedicated long serving staff.”
Riccardo la Torre, chair of the FBU in Essex, said “It was a fantastic day today seeing our control staff take their case directly to parliament.
“Most notably they didn’t come across a single MP who didn’t offer their support. It’s a pity councillors on the fire authority haven’t yet met their own employees themselves to listen to their concerns in person.
“The suspension of strike action provides a window of opportunity which Essex fire authority members should use to listen to their employees’ concerns that their colleagues in Westminster clearly have sympathy with.
“Essex control staff and firefighters are prepared to take our message to politicians and the public, like we did in parliament yesterday, for as long as it takes. We are not going away.”
Emergency control staff also raised concerns about a new IT mobilising system staff use to make sure fire engines get the correct information to respond to incidents.
The new REMSDAQ system introduced earlier this year has failed multiple times resulting in long delays before fire engines are mobilised to respond to emergencies.
Control staff met former fire ministers Baroness Angela Smith and Jim Fitzpatrick MP as well as former Essex fire authority member, now MP, Angela Watkinson.
They also met with MPs Dennis Skinner, Diane Abbott and Richard Fuller as well as long standing women’s rights campaigner Baroness Joyce Gould and representatives of shadow women’s minister Gloria De Piero.
Essex control members remain determined and have pledged to continue standing shoulder to shoulder with other Essex firefighters as they prepare to fight against the next wave of huge frontline cuts indicated by fire chiefs.