‘SHOULD the chiefs take that ultimate decision, we will challenge that legally and will challenge it industrially,’ Barry Downey, regional FBU representative for Hereford and Worcester told News Line yesterday. He was responding to the fire authority’s threat to sack every single firefighters in two weeks’ time and then re-employ them on inferior contracts, including longer working hours.
Downey said: ‘Over the last several months, the fire service has approached us with proposals to change the number of full-time crew at stations across the country. We have not yet reached an agreement on the way shifts are rostered. ‘Unfortunately, at the fire authority meeting on Tuesday the chief asked the permission of the fire authority to impose those new terms and conditions using a method called “dismissal and re-engagement”.
‘Should the chiefs take that ultimate decision, we will challenge that legally and will challenge it industrially. ‘Our members are furious that the chief has taken this decision. If the members take the decision to ballot then that action will be taken by the FBU on our members’ behalf and the outcome of that ballot is likely to be strong support for a strike. ‘We will certainly be calling for support from the Fire Brigades Union across the country. ‘The use of “dismissal and re-engagement” had been suggested in Greater Manchester before, but the threat was withdrawn.
‘“Dismissal and re-engagement” is a huge threat to collective bargaining throughout the whole fire and rescue service across the UK. ‘This is a deplorable thing for the authority to have done. How can we negotiate in good faith with this threat hanging over our heads? ‘They have voted to punish firefighters, to make them feel more insecure at work. ‘These are bullying tactics from a fire authority that does not seem to care about the people who deliver a life-saving public service.
‘The FBU will not stand for it. To say we are angry and disappointed is an understatement.’
Lucy Masoud, FBU London regional official, said: ‘It is an unfortunate sign of the times when chief officers and fire authorities believe that it is acceptable to dismiss a whole workforce and try and impose conditions that are unagreed and often unfair. ‘We have to take our lead from the FBU in Worcester. If they come out we will take their lead on it. ‘It is absolutely disgraceful that their chief officer holds them in such contempt. We were threatened with “dismissal and re-engagement” in London in 2010 when they tried to impose unfair conditions on us.’
Meanwhile, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has lambasted a proposed five-year plan for the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service (DSFRS). The plan falsely claims, that 70% of incidents can be dealt with by only two firefighters, suggesting that the current safe crew minimum of five firefighters is cut.