Essex Fire Crews Call on Fire Chair Hedley to Step In and Break Dispute Deadlock
Essex fire crews are calling on Councillor Tony Hedley, Chair of Essex Fire Authority, to step in and break the deadlock in the bitter fire dispute over unnecessary frontline cuts and changes imposed without agreement. The union says that industrial relations are so problematic that senior managers can’t even bring themselves to allow the highly respected national fire service conciliators (NJC Joint Secretaries) to be called in to assist talks.
The FBU wrote directly to Councillor Hedley over a week ago proposing the fire authority simply lift the block on the involvement of the national fire service conciliators (NJC Joint Secretaries) and agree instead to join the FBU in asking both ACAS and the NJC Joint Secretaries to suggest a way forward for talks. The FBU have not yet received a reply from Councillor Hedley.
Mick Rogers, Essex FBU Secretary:
“All we keep being told by the chief fire officer is ‘NO’ to calling in the NJC Joint Secretaries for conciliation talks. But the lawful trade dispute is actually registered with the fire authority and the responsibility for resolving it rests with the Elected Members of the Essex Fire Authority. The councillors – and Councillor Hedley in particular – have the power and elected authority to step in and break the deadlock.
“No-one can understand why the senior managers in Essex are so determined to exclude the NJC Joint Secretaries. Only yesterday, the South Yorkshire Fire Authority and the FBU have averted the imminent escalation of their dispute by agreeing to the mutually beneficial assistance of the NJC Joint Secretaries as the conciliators of choice. This is an ideal time for Councillor Hedley to step in, to lift the block and allow the professional conciliators to come in and suggest the way forward for talks.
“Essex fire crews are furious at what is going on and will be giving their verdict on cuts and imposed changes. There is still time enough to resolve the issues between us and we are now asking the Chair to the Fire Authority to use his good offices to remove the barriers to serious talks getting underway. But if there is no genuine intention or positive moves to resolve the very real concerns of the frontline professionals then strike action becomes an ever increasing prospect.”
The FBU’s ballot for strike action closes on 13th June. The law then requires at least seven days notice of any strike action after that date.
The union says the ballot is necessary because the fire authority is imposing changes whilst also planning further cuts. 100 full-time fire station based crews have been axed since 2008 with retained ‘on call’ crews cut by 60. Further cuts now being planned will bring total losses of around one in five frontline firefighters since 2008. The latest budget review shows underspends of £1.3 million on wholetime firefighters, £206,000 on retained and £136,000 on control firefighters.
Mick Rogers 07967 – 023709
Alan Chinn-Shaw 07967 – 720363
Nick Mayes 07917 – 065870
Derek Godfrey-Shaw 07967 – 023706