The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has cancelled industrial action on the weekend of 11th and 12th August that threatened to disrupt the Olympic mountain bike races at Hadleigh Park, Essex.
The FBU had planned two periods of strike action and one of 999-calls-only action in Essex that weekend, in protest against what it calls “the worst cuts to frontline 999 services in living memory.”
However, Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary said: “This weekend I received some operationally sensitive information about fire and rescue planning for the event that I think had the potential to cause some confusion to 999 services if the industrial action I called went ahead. So, after consulting local Essex officials, I have decided to cancel two short strike periods and a period of 999-calls-only action originally called to take place that weekend.”
Management of the Essex County Fire & Rescue Service welcomed the union climbdown.
“But,” said Deputy Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley, “if they are genuine about wanting to minimise disruption, then they will also call off the strike scheduled for July 26/27.
“This decision to cancel August 11/12 strike dates is about pressure from crews and pressure from the public, not to mention intervention on a national level politically as the tide turns against a trade union movement hellbent on disrupting national celebrations.”
Wrack insisted that the planned action would not have taken place during the races. “It has always been our priority to try and limit the impact of any industrial action on public safety – our dispute is with those who are cutting the frontline service and not with the people of Essex,” he said.
Nevertheless, Eckley claims support for the strikes is dwindling among firefighters as well as the public. “There is diminishing support for this strike in Essex – retained crews are incensed that they are to bear the brunt of the new campaign of strikes and wholetime firefighters have been trying to find out how this will impact their pay packets.”
Negotiations between the FBU and Essex County Fire & Rescue Service continue this week.