Talks get under way in bid to stop fire strike

TALKS will get under way today in a bid to avert strike action by firefighters in Essex.

A team from the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) is expected to meet senior managers from Essex Fire and Rescue Service, and then officials from the Fire Brigades Union in a bid to break the deadlock.

The FBU announced last week its members were set to strike on five dates – June 28, July 7, July 18, August 18 and October 18.

It follows a three-year dispute with Essex fire chiefs, with the FBU claiming one in five frontline firefighters will have been lost since 2008 if the current round of planned cuts go ahead.

They also claim response times to house fires are slower and specialist rescue equipment is not as readily available.

Adrian Clarke, FBU regional secretary, said: “There are separate meetings with ACAS on Monday and we will review any developments or progress.”

However, he added: “It has been confirmed to us that top fire authority councillors and national fire service conciliators continue to be barred from attending.

Most Read

“The key to resolving the dispute is getting the right people in the room at the same time. The only way of breaking the stalemate is to ensure those doing the negotiations have the power to broker a deal.”

He added: “Essex firefighters do not relish strike action. But our attempts to broker an agreement or get talks with the key parties who have the power to reach a deal have been confounded.”

He said the FBU had been unable to get fire service managers and fire authority in the same room at the same time to meet the union.

Chief Fire Officer David Johnson has said he hopes talks with union officials would go ahead today.

And Assistant Chief Fire Officer Dave Bill said last week: “Clearly the best result for all sides and for the Essex community is for no strike action to take place and for the union to accept the offer of mediation.”

More than 100 firefighters have signed resilience contracts guaranteeing their availability to provide cover during any periods of staff shortage.

Dozens of retained crews will also continue to provide cover for local communities.