Firefighters in the FBU union in Hertfordshire staged their third eight hour strike on Wednesday of last week against plans by the county fire authority to slash the fire service by closing down two stations and axing 50 frontline jobs.
Herts FBU officials met with the county’s chief fire officer Roy Wilsher on Monday of this week to receive a new set of proposals from the employers. These were set to be debated by union activists at a brigade committee meeting on Tuesday evening.
If the proposals are rejected, the union is likely to announce new strike dates on Wednesday of this week. These could come as early as Wednesday of next week.
Last Wednesday’s strike follows similar eight hour actions held on Friday 26 May and Saturday 20 May. FBU members had threatened to walk out for 48 hours after managers confiscated two fire engines from Radlett and Bovingdon, the two threatened stations.
The fire authority also threatened to permanently close the two stations on Thursday of last week. But at the last minute they stepped back from these plans and agreed to return the engines, prompting the FBU to scale back to its initial plan for an eight hour strike.
“We can finally confirm that the two fire appliances have returned and are back on the run,” said Tony Smith, Herts FBU vice-chair. “Significantly, we have again averted the closure of Bovingdon and Radlett.”
Despite the return of the engines, anger with the fire authority remains high.
The chief fire officer Roy Wilsher told local television that he never planned to close the stations last Thursday, despite the fact that the FBU has those threats in writing.
Wilsher is also threatening to confiscate the fire engines again in the event of the FBU calling further strike dates.
A mass meeting of 150 firefighters held on the evening of the strike reaffirmed the union’s resolve to call more strike dates if the employers do not significantly improve their offer.
An FBU member who has seen the latest proposals says they are “nothing new – they still want to shut down Radlett and Bovingdon”, adding that further strikes should be expected.
The government is refusing to provide military cover for the strike periods, leaving the employers vulnerable should firefighters decide to escalate their action.
Despite a concerted propaganda campaign from the bosses, local people in the areas covered by the threatened stations remain supportive of the firefighters’ actions.
For the latest on the Herts FBU dispute go to www.hertsfbu.org