Over 1,000 members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) on Merseyside are planning an 8-day walkout over plans to cut over 150 jobs.
Update: the strike is now on
The strike is due to start at 10am Thursday (31st August) for four days, and then resume for a further four days after a 2-hour hiatus. The FBU says the proposed cuts will mean one in ten jobs will be axed, including 138 firefighters and 15 emergency control operator posts alongside the introduction of a new shift system, which officials say would lead to firefighters spending 96 hours at a time at fire stations. The Fire Authority claims there are no plans to sack any firefighters.
There will be no military cover during the strike because the army is already stretched with deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Management have been retrained to scab the strike, and bosses also claim to have ‘learned from industries without military cover’ and hope to draft non-FBU workers in to scab as well; what bosses term “21st century” tactics against “20th century demands”. According to management, more than 170 staff will be on duty, around 70% of normal, with around 20 fire engines, less than half the normal number. The FBU said brigades bordering Merseyside will not be called on to scab.
Les Skarratts, the FBU’s Merseyside Brigade secretary, said: "These are some of the worst cuts ever proposed in any local fire service and will inevitably damage our operational capability.” The FBU said its members have shown "massive opposition" to the cuts but are striking to secure the fire service, after a 71% vote in favour of the strike.
The Merseyside Fire Authority was also considering taking legal action under Thatcher’s secondary picketing laws over a call by the FBU Secretary General Matt Wrack for firefighters from elsewhere in the country to “show solidarity”, but has now decided against applying for an injunction after assurances from the FBU.