Thursday, December 26, 2019

Firefighters Launch Industrial Action on Christmas Eve
Morning Star, London

FIREFIGHTERS are launching a campaign of industrial action on Christmas Eve in protest against “dangerous” cuts to the service.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in Surrey will begin action short of strike tomorrow, with plans for it to run for six months.

A total of 94 per cent of FBU members voted in favour of action earlier this month on a 72 per cent turnout.

The action includes bans on overtime and on covering for colleagues in “understaffed” senior roles.

Firefighters will also refuse to use non-standard vehicles, including private cars, for brigade purposes.

FBU Surrey brigade secretary Lee Belsten said: “We’ve done everything else in our power to stop these dangerous cuts and have no choice but to resort to industrial action.

“The council and fire service bosses have ignored the concerns of residents and the professional advice of their firefighters for too long.

“Underfunding has become endemic in the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service, with bosses depending on the goodwill of firefighters in a failed attempt to meet basic standards.

“Our goodwill has run dry.

“We’ve had huge support from the community so far in our campaign and we ask that Surrey residents stand with their firefighters through this difficult period.

“These cuts will make all of us less safe.”

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “The horrendous fires we’ve seen in recent years clearly have not resonated with Surrey politicians and fire chiefs.

“They don’t seem to care about the safety of their residents in the slightest.

“Surrey County Council have insisted that the cuts are not financially driven, so we’re calling on them to increase the staffing levels to crew all of Surrey’s fire engines 24/7, rather than cutting seven engines to meet the current staffing level.

“Firefighters across the country stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Surrey.

“This is not the Christmas many firefighters will have planned for, but we must do everything necessary to protect our fire and rescue service.”

The FBU said cuts include removing seven fire engines at night-time and axing 70 firefighter posts.

A spokesman for Surrey’s fire service said: “We are disappointed that the decision by the FBU is to go ahead with action short of strike, given the efforts being made by the service to establish a resolution to the current trade dispute.

“Action short of strike means that firefighters will withdraw from certain duties, such as voluntarily undertaking overtime, crewing one of our trial vehicles, taking responsibility for their kit (personal protective equipment) and undertaking some training.

“We would like to reassure residents that we will continue to respond to emergencies and do everything we can to keep people safe. Overtime has been at an all-time low since August and we do not expect the withdrawal of this or other activities to have a significant impact.

“We continue to meet regularly with the FBU to try and resolve this trade dispute and avoid any unnecessary worry for our residents.”

Crowds of firefighters lined the street outside the London Fire Brigade (LFB) headquarters yesterday to form a guard of honour for outgoing commissioner Dany Cotton.

Ms Cotton, 50, is stepping down earlier than expected following criticism over the service’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire.

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