‘As fire crews and support staff were being honoured at a Buncefield award ceremony, fire authority bosses were busily cutting the pay of the crews they were praising,’ said a furious Hertfordshire Fire Brigades Union yesterday.
The award ceremony on Monday 11 December, the first anniversary of the Buncefield fire and explosion, was boycotted by many of Herts fire crews, unhappy at the decision to cut the pay of the most experienced and loyal of Hertfordshire Firefighters.
The Xmas pay packets are the first to be hit by the pay cuts.
Only a few weeks prior to the ceremony, Hertfordshire Fire Authority halved the long service payments made to firefighters with 15 years service from £990 to £545.
A further cut of the other £545 is due in April, 2007 meaning those getting the payments will lose nearly £1,000 from their paypackets.
The promised replacement scheme, which was meant to be in place before the long service payments were phased out, has failed to materialise.
The new scheme, known as Continuous Professional Development or CPD, is aimed at rewarding firefighters for their professionalism.
FBU Watford Secretary Derek Macleod said: ‘We have tried to find a way forward to ensure our members did not have to suffer a pay cut so soon before Christmas, but we have been frustrated at the lack of progress.
‘To make matters worse the funding is available to pay firefighters, but the Fire Authority chooses to keep it in the County Council coffers rather than to pay the fire crews.’
Since the Buncefield explosion, two fire stations have been closed, 18 firefighters made redundant and now long serving firefighters have taken a pay cut.
Herts FBU Secretary Tony Smith said: ‘There seems to be no end to the ill treatment of local fire crews despite being constantly praised for the work that they do.’
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