Industrial dispute ends but cuts to full-time firefighters still coming to Brentwood

Firefighters will continue to “present evidence” and “lobby politically” but have ended their industrial action over the number of full-time crews at Brentwood station.

Plans to replace one of the North Road station’s crews with a retained service is one of several reasons the Essex Fire Brigade Union (FBU) had been involved in an industrial dispute since 2008.

But this week the action has officially come to an end after months of negotiations.

Service chiefs are still pressing ahead with plans to replace one of the full-time crews at Brentwood Station, however.

They plan to install a retained crew - made up of ‘on-call’ staff who may have other jobs.

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FBU executive council member Keith Handscomb told the Recorder: “The service is still going ahead with the plans, but we’ve taken the tactical decision to stop the industrial action.

“We have serious concerns about impact of the plans on public safety and we will continue to present evidence about this and to lobby politically about it.”

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The negotiated settlement agrees that the number of fulltime firefighters across the rest of the county will stay the same until March 2015 – subject to government funding.

He said: “It also includes new terms and allowances underpinned by agreements on a detailed framework for improving industrial relations going forward.

“It’s early days but, bit by bit, relations are starting to get better and so it is now up to both sides to take this opportunity to work together in facing the considerable challenges that lie ahead.”

Chief fire officer David Johnson said: “The service will face significant financial challenges over the next couple of years and it is important for us all to focus our energies on the future and learn to work together once again to achieve the best possible outcome for Essex.

“The changes that have successfully been introduced over the last four years have put us in a good position.

“We will be using new crewing arrangements to introduce a retained crew into Brentwood and continue to look at innovative ways of working that will help us to maintain the availability of fire engines on the front line.”

He added: “Clearly having faced the acrimony of a four year dispute, it will take time to rebuild trust. But with mutual respect and co-operation, I am hopeful that we can look forward to a new era in terms of trade union relationships built on an understanding that there will continue to be differences and compromise will be needed on both sides.”

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