Surrey anti-cuts rally

Surrey firefighters to ballot on Christmas industrial action

Firefighters in Surrey are today (Tuesday 26 November) balloting on industrial action to commence on 24 December, after exhausting all other avenues to prevent dangerous cuts to their fire and rescue service.

The cuts, which include removing seven fire engines at night-time and cutting 70 firefighter posts, were approved by Surrey County Council at a cabinet meeting on 24 September. 68% of respondents to the official consultation opposed cuts to fire cover, with just 18% approving.

Over 13,000 people signed a petition calling on the council to scrap cuts, but the council ultimately voted them through.

Lee Belsten, FBU Surrey brigade secretary, said:

“These cuts are extremely dangerous and will categorically leave Surrey residents less safe. We’ve exhausted every other avenue of resistance. We’ve held rallies, circulated petitions, lobbied the council and the government, receiving huge support from Surrey residents.

“We’ve tried to negotiate with the brigade and the council to keep Surrey safe, but they will not budge. We have no choice but to go to our last resort; industrial action.

“There is no other way to stop these cuts. It’s vital that every Surrey firefighter vote ‘’yes’ for industrial action.”

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said:

“It is utterly scandalous that further cuts are being made to fire services after the Grenfell Tower report. It seems those in power are willing to learn absolutely nothing about the risk of fire.

“Fire service management in Surrey have acted disgracefully, ignoring the professional advice of their firefighters and the clear view of the public, bulldozing through changes that will make the county less safe.

“Firefighters are here to keep their communities safe and we will do whatever is necessary to stand against dangerous cuts. Our hands are now tied – there is no other recourse left. Every Surrey firefighter should vote ‘yes’ for industrial action.”

The FBU lodged a trade dispute in September, setting Surrey Fire and Rescue Service a deadline of 7 October to address its’ concerns. The union is now balloting its’ members for industrial action short of strike under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.

This year has seen the steepest rise in Surrey fire deaths in over a decade. Staffing shortages in Surrey have left fire engines unavailable to respond to emergency calls over the last year, resulting in slower response times as crews often have to travel from neighbouring counties.

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