War of words over firefighters’ strike

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The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has criticised Bucks Fire & Rescue Service’s plans for this weekend’s strikes.

But the fire authority says it is the union’s strike action that is putting the public at risk.

Firefighters across the country will walk out for three periods over the weekend over pensions proposals by central government.

The strike periods are from noon to 5pm today Friday, from 2pm tomorrow, Saturday, to 2am on Sunday, and from 10am to 3pm on Sunday.

Emergency cover will still be provided and people should still call 999 in an emergency.

But the Bucks & Milton Keynes Fire Authority has decided not to allow striking firefighters to work any part of their shifts.

This means some firefighters may be off work for longer than required by the strike and they will lose payment for the whole shift.

The decision was taken by the fire authority in December, after industrial action last year. It says it is exercising its right not to accept what is termed ‘partial performance’ when a strike period relates only to part of a shift.

But the FBU said this means the county will be unnecessarily without most of its fire and rescue workforce for the duration.

It said Bucks Fire & Rescue is the only fire authority in the county to be implementing this policy this time.

FBU’s spokesman Steve Allen said: “Local firefighters are extremely worried about the implications of this nonsensical and unnecessary decision for our members and the communities of Bucks.”

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack, who will visit picket lines in the county today, said: “Bucks are the only brigade considering this ludicrous measure that is not in the interests of the firefighters, the communities we serve or the fire service itself.”

But chief fire officer for Bucks Fire & Rescue, Mark Jones, said the statement issued by the FBU did not give the complete picture.

He said: “It seems that their alleged outrage at how the service manages the FBU’s decision to go on strike is engineered to divert attention away from the fact that the FBU is choosing to withdraw its labour for what will be the tenth occasion and place the public at risk.

“It also seems that they don’t just want to go on strike – they also want to control how the service manages their absence.

“I am delighted that so many of our firefighters and officers will give their loyalty to protecting the public this weekend rather than taking strike action.”