The Fire Brigades Union has tonight called off its ballot for industrial action over ECFRS’ ‘over the border’ arrangements in relation to the London firefighters strikes.
Service management has welcomed the move, along with the majority of firefighters who were facing an unpopular vote to instigate a second wave of industrial action in Essex with the current 18-month dispute still unresolved.
In a press release issued this evening (Tuesday), the FBU Essex said that a compromise by Deputy Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley had prompted them to withdraw. But Service management said there had been no such compromise and the same arrangements are in place today as were originally communicated to the FBU when London firefighters announced their first wave of action.
ECFRS has been keen to stress all along that its firefighters would not be asked to do anything they wouldn’t ordinarily do where over the border incidents are involved and that they would be crossing onto London ground as they would routinely do and responding to emergency calls with life risk only. Regardless of action by London firefighters, all neighbouring fire and rescue services across the country are signed up to standing mutual aid arrangements with other services to ensure the safety of communities.
But the Union has counterclaimed and provided evidence that wording has changed.
In a Union statement released at 11.30 pm tonight the union states
Essex Firefighters, Officers and Control members are astonished that ECFRS’ management do not wish to accept the credit for having the foresight to change the wording in their own policy regarding over the border attendances, whilst London Fire Brigade are involved in lawful industrial action.
Having earlier welcomed the timely intervention of DCFO Eckley, the FBU is totally baffled by the apparent refusal of CFO Johnson to let one of the DCFO’s take any credit for the revised proposals that has resulted in the postponement of the ballot for industrial action.
Essex FBU Brigade Chair, Mark Kinsalla says: “The CFO claims ECFRS’ position has not altered from day one, but the reality is that there has been a clear change from the original instructions sent out to all staff on 21st October to that of the revised instructions which were subsequently released on 1st November, the changes are absolutely clear.”
Studying the documents ( Briefing Note Cross Border Operations 29/10/2010)it appears that wording has been added to include the statement
ECFRS will only attend incidents that pose a risk to life in areas where we would normally make an attendance
The long running dispute in Essex, which is a different stance to neighbouring London, has now been running for 18 months. The London dispute appears to be escalating with striking firefighters alledgedly injured by Asset and Co employers . Public opinion is swaying vastly between the two sides . The battle is over a change of hours but at the heart of the strike is that London firefighters have been told to sign new contracts or face the sack.
The relationship in Essex has not got to that stage yet and we hope it doesn’t but there can be no winners in either dispute .