Arrogant behaviour and bullying by fire service bosses on Merseyside is threatening to scupper a deal aimed at ending the industrial dispute over cuts in the region, according to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
Merseyside firefighters, who were on strike for 26 days, suspended their action at the end of last month following an agreement over principles hammered out between the fire authority and union negotiators.
But the dispute is still on while the details of the deal are settled - and the FBU has warned that managers have already started to backtrack on the initial agreement.
If the managers do scupper the deal, a new round of strikes could be called by the FBU starting from early next week.
“We have said all along there are management diehards who sought a dispute, never wanted it to be resolved when it started and even now don’t want it resolved,” said Mark Dunne, brigade chair of Merseyside FBU.
No further strike dates have been called at this stage, he added, but “that position remains under active review and we remind the fire authority the union can notify them of further strike dates at any time”.
Firefighters say the management culture instituted by Tony McGuirk, Merseyside’s chief fire officer, is characterised by intimidation and victimisation of union members - a key factor driving the bitter dispute.
Andy Dark, assistant general secretary of the FBU, says the talks are “in jeopardy” because of managers “threatening to renege” on an agreement to implement the recommendations of a technical advisory panel.
Meanwhile other disputes are brewing in the fire service across the country, as managers continue to implement neoliberal cuts packages dressed up as “modernisation” and stall over implementing pay rises.
Firefighters in Staffordshire are threatening to strike over cuts, while brigades in Warwickshire and Cambridgeshire are threatening strike action over plans to phase out long service pay awards before a replacement scheme is agreed.
On Tuesday of last week, firefighters in Norfolk took unofficial action over long service pay by answering 999 calls only during the afternoon.