31/08/2006

Firefighters launch four-day strike

More than 1,000 firefighters across Merseyside have begun a four-day strike in protest over planned job cuts.

Another four-day stoppage is scheduled to begin two hours after the first one ends.

The strikes have been prompted by union claims that the fire authority is planning to cut 120 jobs and 15 emergency control posts - a claim which has been denied by the fire authority.

The union is also upset at plans to introduce a new shift system, which, they claim, would lead to firefighters spending 96 hours at a time at fire stations.

Merseyside Fire Service stressed that at least 22 out of the 26 community fire stations on Merseyside will be open and staffed, with more than 170 uniform staff providing operation cover.

Last week, the government confirmed that no military support would be available during the strike, because of the current high demands on the army.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Bill Evans accused the union of having "total disregard for public safety" by planning to have two four-day strikes back to back.

However, Fire Brigades Union General Secretary Matt Wrack accused Merseyside Fire Authority of provoking the strike action as part of a "union-busting" strategy.

A spokesperson for Merseyside Fire Service denied the claims and said: "We have repeatedly and consistently asked the FBU to come back to the negotiating table and they have not taken up that offer."

(KMcA/EF)

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