Essex striking firefighters to be 'forced from stations'

Firefighters claim Essex Fire Service is "undermining" talks in a dispute over cuts by "forcing" striking crews out of stations.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) are to walk out between 04:00 and 05:00 BST on Saturday.

They claim to have been told to leave their stations, including in the middle of the night, or be deemed trespassers.

A fire service spokesman said it was simply looking to enforce regulations.

"It is baffling that the FBU thought its members could strike while staying in their beds," said the spokesman.

'Remove cars'

"It appears while they are happy to inconvenience the public through strike action they do not believe their own members should suffer any inconvenience.

"The date and time of the strike action was their choice. This is self-imposed distress and cannot be blamed on service managers.

"As for undermining talks, striking just hours after meeting with ACAS conciliators could raise questions over the union leadership's own commitment to settling this industrial action."

The union dismissed the move as "petty tactics" designed to make them as uncomfortable as possible.

Nick Mayes, assistant secretary of the Essex FBU, said the timing of the strike had been chosen to have the minimum impact on the public, particularly as the Olympic torch will be passing through Essex on Saturday.

"We have been told we will have to leave the station, remove our cars and will be locked out and not allowed to re-enter," he added.

"They are within their rights to do this - if you're on strike, you shouldn't be at work.

'One fifth cut'

"But it doesn't enhance the relationship between fire chiefs and our members, who are constantly in fear of being disciplined.

"It's not going to deter us from taking this action and we will be true to our word and try to limit the impact of the strikes."

The FBU claims Essex will have lost one-in-five front-line firefighters since 2008 if planned cuts go ahead.

The fire service says it has made a number of concessions, including promising there will be no redundancies, and criticised the FBU for not engaging in meaningful talks.

Saturday's action is the second in a series of planned strikes, with others planned for 18 July, 18 August and 18 October.

The first, an eight-hour walk-out on 28 June, passed off "largely without incident", the fire service said.

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