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Year 2005 No. 121, November 15, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Firefighters' West Midlands Regional Strike

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Firefighters' West Midlands Regional Strike

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Firefighters' West Midlands Regional Strike

Firefighters are on strike this week in a dispute over changes to hours, annual leave and travel expenses. The action involves two three-hour walk-outs on the evening of Monday and the morning of Thursday.

            It has also been confirmed that a three-hour strike will also take place in the early hours of Monday, November 21. Further dates for this discontinuous strike action will be determined if the matter is not resolved.

            It is the first time fire crew workers in the West Midlands have gone on strike independently of other areas.

            Andy Dennis, of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said morale was at an all-time low, while secretary Peter Gallagher is reported saying, "Members are having to do an extra shift per week. As well as having a home station they are also having to do a shift at a different station which is often quite a distance away."

            More than 2,000 union members took part in a ballot last month and voted three to one in favour of strike action in support of their claim for compensation following the start of the new shift system in the West Midlands.

            The final offer made by the management of the West Midlands Fire Service to firefighters does not address the three key recommendations made by the Independent Chair of the Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) in June this year. They are: The application of holiday arrangements arising from the new duty system; Recompense for additional travelling expenses whilst working on early and late shifts; Compensation for finishing shifts at midnight whilst working the late shift.

            The final offer made by the West Midlands management means, in reality:

            • An offer of one extra day leave. This means firefighters still only have at least five days’ leave, which is outside of the national agreement. This leave cannot be realised as a cash equivalent so this means that the total offer is not worth £420.

            • An overall “flexibility allowance” of £180 plus £30 if firefighters use their own vehicles, which means that they could be sent from Coventry to Wolverhampton on a daily basis, a round trip of some 100 miles. This does not include all of the journeys expected to be carried out as some stations are excluded. This as now been extended to the other shifts worked as well as the earlies and late’s.

            • An offer of £60 to cover all of the issues arising from the midnight finish, which they could do up to 36 times a year.

            The issue of the 7 am start was not requested by the FBU but was part of the recommendations made by the Independent Chair of the panel in June. The issue was first raised by the management earlier this month.

            WDIE expresses its support for the West Midlands firefighters and their demands. The firefighters are constantly having to fight to defend their rights and their dignity, as well as to provide a vital public service. Why should this be the case when society as a whole values their contribution to the public good so highly? The government has in the past even gone so far as to demonise them as the enemy within, as did Thatcher with the miners two decades before. Social programmes, including the people who work in them, should receive the investment which is their due!

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