Fire Brigades Union reps from fire stations across Essex voted tonight (Monday 12th July) to confirm their officials can sign up to a compromise deal pain-stakingly negotiated with the Essex Chief Fire Officer to bring the year-long industrial dispute to an end.
The majority decision was made after widespread consultation with fire crews and fire officers across Essex. The lawful trade dispute commenced on 15th June 2009, followed by an industrial ballot and more than 8 months of industrial action short of strike. A meeting shall now be arranged for both sides to formally sign the agreement so as to allow the FBU General Secretary to formally confirm the end of the lawful trade dispute.
Keith Flynn, Essex FBU Secretary:
“This is a compromise settlement and represents a victory for common sense in the current economic climate. On the down side, the deal confirms the cut of 44 wholetime firefighters from frontline fire stations and as a result, some of our vital specialist high-reach and rescue vehicles will no longer benefit from dedicated crews. Our members continue to harbour serious professional concerns about these cuts and the affects they may have on both firefighter and public safety. However, on the upside, the deal secures protections against future cuts in frontline 999 services for the public and several key assurances for firefighters.”
Specific terms in the deal secure:
• protections against the further erosion of wholetime firefighter numbers and fire engines serving at frontline fire stations;
• the funding to maintain the current numbers of Retained firefighters and their emergency response standards;
• a guarantee there will be no compulsory redundancies of wholetime firefighters.
The Chief Fire Officer has indicated that whilst the fire authority aims to deliver the terms of the agreement, in the current climate it is not possible to make cast-iron guarantees.
“Our members understand the financial challenges facing the fire authority, but we believe that further cuts to frontline 999 services would inevitably put the lives of firefighters and the public at increased risk. We also believe the public expect that cuts to frontline 999 services should only ever be considered as a last resort. Our members agree and so it is time to bring this dispute to an end to focus on the future. In the difficult times ahead, our members will expect the fire authority to make delivering this agreement and the protection of our frontline 999 services their immediate priority.”