IT is feared that the Fire Brigades Union has rejected the latest dispute resolution agreement. According to sources, the decision was taken at a meeting of the FBU (Essex) Brigade Committee on Tuesday evening.
On behalf of the Service’s Negotiating team, Chief Fire Officer David Johnson said that if this is indeed the truth, then the entire team is absolutely dismayed with the outcome. The Service is waiting for official confirmation.
“Following the last negotiation meeting at the beginning of the month, Service negotiators were extremely optimistic that there was enough common ground for a settlement, particularly bearing in mind the mood on fire stations where firefighters have been lobbying their union representatives to bring this dispute to an end,” said the Chief Fire Officer.
“It appears that a small number of local FBU officials are hell-bent on stringing this out for as long as possible, despite the fact that this is hitting pockets and morale of their own members.”
On behalf of Essex Fire Authority, Service Managers have made an extensive range of commitments to staff that quite simply do not exist anywhere else in the UK Fire and Rescue Service. Within the proposed dispute resolution agreement offered by Service negotiators the following commitments have been made:
· No compulsory redundancies of existing firefighters
· No fire station closures
· No reduction in the number of pumping appliances
· A retention of the current shift system which is valued highly by our staff
“We are of course disappointed if the news of the latest rejection is in fact true and await with interest the official communication explaining their grounds for rejecting the offer and what additional conditions union officials are now seeking to introduce,” the CFO added.
When we consider the dispute began more than two years ago over the proposal to switch crew aerial appliances with rescue tenders – a practice that has been in place some 18 months now – the situation is ludicrous and we must now question the validity of the two year old mandate gained by the union from its members.”
A secret ballot asking firefighters to support a vote of no confidence in the Chief Fire Officer and the spending priorities of Essex Fire Authority has now concluded. It seems clear that the ballot was designed to distract attention from FBU officials’ failure to engage in meaningful talks since January this year and was evidently used as a tactic by beleaguered local officials in an attempt to apply leverage to the current round of dispute resolution negotiations.
The fact that the FBU has not released the results of the widely circulated ballot publicly at this stage would imply that neither objective was achieved in the way intended. However regardless of the outcome of the ballot for ‘a vote of no confidence’, Service Managers say they would rather see the time and resources placed at the disposal of FBU (Essex) officials by their fee paying members used in a more meaningful and constructive way to bring the current dispute to a long overdue end
“The ball is now very firmly with the FBU in Essex as Service Managers have done all that is possible within the current challenging financial climate. So, on the day that another 2,000 Military Service men and women have been made redundant, the Service Negotiating team asks local FBU officials to seriously reconsider the dispute resolution agreement that is on the table and the financial impact that this long running dispute is having on their members. We will await their response,” the CFO concluded.