Countdown to fourth strike by firefighters

PUBLISHED: 10:25 15 June 2006 | UPDATED: 14:44 12 May 2010

Angela Smith

Angela Smith

FIREFIGHTERS are set to take 48-hour strike action tonight (Thursday) in their campaign against cuts. This will be the fourth strike in four weeks following a continuing dispute between the Fire Brigades Union and Herts County Council. Firefighters are ex

FIREFIGHTERS are set to take 48-hour strike action tonight (Thursday) in their campaign against cuts.

This will be the fourth strike in four weeks following a continuing dispute between the Fire Brigades Union and Herts County Council.

Firefighters are expected to walk out from 6pm.

FBU spokesman Ben Read, who is stationed at Royston Fire Station, said: "Talks were supposed to take place on Tuesday but they didn't go ahead.

"Taking strike action is not something we choose to do but we think our hand has been forced.

"For us, it will be a short-term risk, but the county council's plans would create long-term risks.

"We hope negotiations will take place as soon as possible.

And Tony Smith, Herts FBU vice-chairman, said: "We are sick and tired of being offered promises of new proposals, only to be handed the same old cuts package time after time.

"The county council has put us through a sham of consultation and the talks have been a charade."

"Fire crews have endured amateurish negotiating ploys from the county council. It is either sheer incompetence or it is driven by a perverse desire to cut the fire service at any cost," he said.

The dispute revolves around a new community safety scheme that the Herts Fire and Rescue Service wants to see introduced.

It will mean the loss of two fire stations elsewhere in the county and a cut to staff levels and a change in working arrangements at Royston.

Although the Chief Fire Officers' Association (CFOA) believe negotiations are the way forward, they are against strike action.

Phil Toase, president of the Chief Fire Officers Association, described the strike action as "irresponsible".

He said: "I would ask the FBU to consider that the safety of the public is paramount and that taking this strike action in such a risk critical environment is not a responsible way to act.

"I urge the FBU to think again about this strike action and to continue negotiations in a spirit of realism rather than arguing for a situation of no-change."

Government communities and local government minister Angela Smith said in Parliament that she had talked about the dispute with both the county council and the FBU.

"A key role that I have played is ensuring that talks can take place. I have encouraged everyone to talk in order to find a way through the current difficulties."

She said it was not the "direct responsibility" of the Government to become involved in the dispute.

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