FBU balloons on a demonstration

Fire control staff in Merseyside are to take eight consecutive days of strike action from 27 December in a dispute over shifts and conditions.

Control staff delivered an overwhelming mandate for strike action in August, with 100% voting Yes on a turnout of 92%.The dispute centres on the imposed reduction in night-time staffing numbers from the agreed level of 6 to 5; and the introduction of a duty shift system that was never subject to negotiation with the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

Following the ballot result, negotiations were ongoing between the union and Merseyside fire employers at the National Joint Council (NJC). However,  FBU members in Merseyside fire control voted overwhelmingly to reject an offer from employers last week. The offer failed to address some of the issues the FBU has with the proposed duty shift system, and the union claims employers refused to even discuss the imposed reduction in night-time staffing numbers.

The FBU has now notified the employer of eight days of strike action, which will seriously disrupt the fire and rescue service, both in Merseyside and across the U.K, with the control room fulfilling the national resilience responsibility.

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary, said: “Imposing contracts on firefighters and downgrading working conditions is a threat to public safety. Control room staff have emphatically backed industrial action to defend their conditions and their fire service – and the intransigence of employers gives us no choice but to use that mandate.

“The cost of resolving this dispute would be minimal. The cost of not resolving it is major disruption to the fire service. I urge Merseyside fire employers to use the time between now and the strike to come forward with a credible offer.

“The whole of the Fire Brigades Union across the UK stands behind Merseyside control members.”

Ian Hibbert, Fire Brigades Union Brigade Secretary for Merseyside said: “Our members in fire control are the undisputed occupational experts, who are dealing with an employer that not only ignores that expertise, but seeks to rip up local agreements that protect control staff, firefighters and members of the public alike.

“Firefighters and control staff do not take industrial action lightly, but having exhausted every option with an employer who refuses to listen, we have been left with no other choice. The time has come for Merseyside Fire and Rescue service to listen to members in fire control, to listen to the Fire Brigades Union and to reach agreement on all issues.”

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Image credit: Socialist Appeal – Creative Commons