Essex

Essex firefighters to strike over cuts

Firefighters in Essex have announced they are to stage five strikes in a dispute over cuts to the service.

The Fire Brigades Union said industrial action will take place on 28 June, 7 and 18 July, 18 August and 18 October.

The union claims Essex will have lost one in five frontline firefighters since 2008 if planned cuts go ahead.

Essex Fire and Rescue said 100 firefighters and dozens of retained crews had declared themselves available during strike periods.

"More than 100 Essex firefighters have signed up to resilience contracts guaranteeing their availability during times of severe staff shortages," the county service said in a statement.

"Added to that are dozens of retained crews determined to continue to provide life-saving cover to their local communities.

"The service has a responsibility to ensure the safety of our communities and that is a responsibility we take seriously and one we are not prepared to leave to chance with the threat of strike action looming."

'Two-faced approach'

Alan Chinn-Shaw, chairman of the FBU's Essex branch, said: "This is about cuts to frontline firefighters and changes imposed on firefighters.

"We've had enough and the cuts are now directly impacting on public and firefighter safety.

"The recent highly provocative removal of key fire engines and vital rescue equipment contradicts the fire authority claim that it is being reasonable.

"This two-faced approach has gone on for three years and enough is enough."

Essex firefighters voted by 2-1 in favour of strikes following almost three years of action short of a strike.

Chief Fire Officer David Johnson said Essex Fire and Rescue Service management had moved 95% towards union demands and it was now down to the union to move the other 5%.

"There are only a few points still in dispute - points the service cannot move on, including no changes to anything without prior union agreement," he said.

"The union also wants a reversal of the decision to change Brentwood Fire Station crewing arrangements from two wholetime appliances to one wholetime and one retained."

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