Suffolk Fire Crews Strike Tomorrow

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Suffolk Fire Brigades Union Brigade Committee yesterday called for a national demonstration next Thursday, 11 August, in support of tomorrow and this Friday’s strike action.

Thursday week’s demonstration is planned to take place at 2pm-4pm in Ipswich.

The demonstration has been called to coincide with a planned fire Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) to be held on Thursday 11th August.

Suffolk FBU Brigade Committee said yesterday: ‘This will be an ideal opportunity to show the elected members of the Fire Authority the depth of support for our fellow members taking a stand against totally avoidable cuts in frontline firefighter posts at a time when resources are already badly overstretched.’

Suffolk fire crews voted two to one in favour of strike action in a ballot over plans to cut 12 frontline emergency response firefighter posts.

Suffolk FBU says the cuts by the fire authority will endanger firefighters and the public for years to come.

The cuts would mean specialist rescue equipment, an aerial ladder, would not be available at all times. There would also be fewer firefighters to carry out community safety work.

Suffolk FBU Brigade Chair Vince Jell said: ‘Every professional in the Suffolk fire service knows this is deeply flawed and dangerous.

‘The cuts have nothing to do with safety and everything to do with budget cuts.

‘Suffolk has one of the largest areas at risk from fires in England but spends less on the fire service than all other fire authorities.

‘We only have 45 frontline emergency response firefighters on duty at any time and we are short of 67 retained firefighters.

‘The fire authority has slashed its community safety budget by two-thirds in the last few years.

‘They have cut behind the scenes and now they want to cut the frontline emergency response role.

‘The cuts will make our work less safe and the people of Suffolk less safe. These are significant cuts based on a deeply flawed “safety” plan.’

The FBU has given the fire authority notice of two periods of strike action: 07.00 hours on 2 August until 10.00 hours on 2 August (3 hours) and 17.00 hours 5 August until 19.00 hours 5 August (2 hours).

Suffolk FBU point out: ‘According to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Annual Fire Statistics of the 22 Combined Fire Authorities and county fire brigades in England with populations of less than 900,000, Suffolk is BOTTOM of the table in terms of fire service spending per head of population.’

l Meanwhile, as Suffolk FBU man the picket lines tomorrow, FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack will be joining an FBU negotiating team in Somerset in talks with Somerset fire authority senior management in a bid to resolve the dispute over the lack of insurance cover for members attending New Dimension incidents.

If those talks are unsuccessful, Somerset members will take industrial action, starting this Thursday, August 4.

This will involve no participation in training for New Dimension equipment, IRUs and HVPs.

l Bedfordshire and Luton Chief Fire Officer Paul Fuller has hinted that being rated ‘weak’ in last week’s first ever Comprehensive Performance Assessments (CPA) by the Audit Commission, may be a move towards merging Bedfordshire and Luton with other brigades.

Fuller said: ‘I do not believe that we have been fairly represented by this score which suggests that we are comparatively under performing. This is simply not true.’

He added: ‘This report together with a number of other sources all seem to be saying big is beautiful, we try not to subscribe to conspiracy theories but you have to wonder.’

Fire Authority chairman Councillor Tony Duggan added that he was ‘genuinely worried’ the report could be a forerunner to merging forces.

PETROL RATIONING IN IRAQ

IRAQ has the world’s second-largest oil reserves, but top puppet government officials are looking into creating a coupon programme to ration fuel for the winter.

Rationing aims to put a dent into the black market sale of oil products ‘and lead to more equitable distribution for all Iraqis,’ Petroleum Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said.

Since the April 2003 overthrow of President Saddam Hussein’s government, the supply of oil products, especially gasoline, has been effectively, if not officially, rationed.

Iraqis have been forced to stand in lines for up to five hours at the pump to get fuel.

The alternative is to buy gas on the black market, with prices 25 times higher.

Petroleum Ministry officials have formed a committee aimed at creating a system of coupons to ration petroleum products, especially kerosene used for heating and running power generators.

The system is to be ready before next October.

Aside from difficulties like getting fuel and water, Iraqis have also to put up with long periods without electricity, which becomes linked to the fuel shortage.

In Baghdad, power blackouts last up to 20 hours a day, at the height of summer with temperatures around 38 degrees Celsius even after sunset.

l On Saturday, five US soldiers were killed and two wounded in two bomb attacks on their patrols in the Iraqi capital, the US military said yesterday.

One soldier was killed and two wounded when their military vehicle was blown up in Baghdad’s southern district of Dora.

Another four soldiers were killed in a second bomb attack in southwest Baghdad, military spokesman Sergeant David Abrams said.