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Southport Reporter

Edition No. 75

Date:- 22 November 2002

Fire Strike Starts Again! 
By Dominic Bonner.

A SETTLEMENT between the fire fighters and management seems no closer to agreement as the Fire Brigade Union reveals a new dossier on the wide reaching holes that appear between it's workers and management to justify the continuing strikes.

Details of FBU document stress again the risks that the government and management are taking with the public over their current pay issue. 

The current pay reviews have not been disputed since the "winter of discontent" some 25 years ago, yet current disputes between fire fighters and management are backbiting at each other with fire fighters claiming that management's description of the negotiation procedure for a democratic pay structure appears 'restrictive' and 'that they earn enough', according to the dossier. 

Further posturing from management seems to incense fire fighters with claims that 'Many situations faced by fire fighters are hazardous, but the risk of death and injury is lower than for some other occupations such as construction, trawler fishing and agriculture'. 

A quote that the FBU refers to as taking the biscuit and laughable, pointing to reasons why management is not able to recruit new employees with a 20 percent shortfall in recent years.

Yet it would seem that management want to further increase the services effectiveness by modernising it to protect their workers. Money would still have to be found. But it would seem that no funds are available from the Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and his war chest. Especially with the current climate of relations over the negotiation table between the fire fighters, management and government being particularly frosty at present.

Government inquiries seem unable to deal effectively to any negotiations and that it would seem that it is powerless to intervene despite a rather hasty recent investigation. 

In light of the current government attitude towards the FBU, Southport Fire Fighters have now Voted 100% in favour of dropping all contributions via their Union to the Labour Party.

Negotiations hit further snags earlier this week as negotiations ran late into the night for most of the week, despite the FBU coming to an agreement to the proposal of a 16% pay rise on the terms of modernisation of the fire service. 

Talks broke down late on Thursday as Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott walked out the meeting claiming, "It would seem after all our negotiations the fire fighters actually want the strike." This has further incensed the FBU but their position is looking rather shaky in spite the first day of official strike as rumours that the government has been holding secret talks for privatising the fire service.

Negotiations are still ongoing between the government and the FBU but no outcome seems likely as the FBU promised to carry out it's strike threat through the coming weeks, causing further chaos for the public and the army who are currently dealing with emergency fire calls with their outdated Green Goddess fire engines. But it would seem that the government, realising the house of cards that would fall if they are seen to give in to the fire fighters that is particularly worrying at present. 

It would seem their obstinacy is related to possible embarrassment of capitulation to the FBU, that would stem a whole host of strikes and demands for pay rises for similar professions and public services. Thus the stalemate at the negotiation table continues, with neither party seemingly prepared to budge on their demands. Although Mr Prescott has called for the FBU to resume talks on November 22, seeking an urgent solution to the current dispute.

The Bedford Self-Propelled Pump, Built on the Bedford S chassis between 1953-6.     The vehicle is capable of speeds up to 50mph.  4x4 drive,  a powerful water pump capable of feeding four hose-lines with 900 gallons per minute, and carries a first-aid tank of up to 300 gallons of water as an alternative to supply from a hydrant. The system is capable of foam use when necessary. 1600 feet of hose is carried, plus a range of other fire-fighting equipment, including a second, lightweight and portable, pump and a ladder.

Statement by Lt Gen John Kiszely MC,
commanding the Armed Forces on Op Fresco on the 22 November:- "The Armed Forces face a significant undertaking as they provide this emergency fire cover, but I have absolutely no doubt that our men and women will make the best use of the equipment available to us, including the Red Goddesses. They acquitted themselves superbly during the 48-hour strike, as the Prime Minister has said, and I have every confidence that we will provide the service expected of us."

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DICKENSIAN DAY in Formby 2002!
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