Bucks Fire and Rescue Service’s chief fire officer has accused union leaders of trying to disrupt safety arrangements ahead of strike action.
Following on from the announcement of further strike action by the Fire Brigades Union, Chief Fire Officer Mark Jones has expressed surprise and disappointment at “the union’s attempts to bully neighbouring services into not honouring mutual assistance arrangements”.
Fire and rescue services have long-standing and routine measures in place to help each other out during times of peak demand, including the recent flooding events and the strikes at Christmas and New Year.
Mr Jones said: “We have become aware that, in the strikes planned for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 2, 3 and 4, the Fire Brigades Union representatives of other services are suggesting that their members are concerned about assisting at fires in the Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes area.
“It is doubly confusing to us that the Fire Brigades Union would take this stance because they are well aware that Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is one of the safest in which to operate and enjoys remarkable firefighter safety levels. This is due to the high levels of competence of our staff.
“Public safety is our priority and, during the periods of strike action, we shall continue to support other services. It seems crazy for the Fire Brigades Union to suggest any other course of action.
“Some factions within the Fire Brigades Union might imagine that placing the public at risk in this way in some way supports their strike action, but I think this is madness.
“The dispute is between the Government and the Fire Brigades Union. Local fire and rescue services are not involved in the issues surrounding the strike, but have to bear the expense of making sure that our communities remain protected.
“In my view, suggesting that highly trained and professional crews from other areas could not operate in times of strike action in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes – something that we do every day – belittles their members.
“I am certain that the Fire Brigades Union’s approach in this regard does not actually represent the view of the firefighters of neighbouring counties in any case because we find them to be excellent.
“As the Chief Fire Officer, I have to put on record that I am proud of my staff, who make a fantastic contribution to public safety every day. I believe the Fire Brigades Union has got this wrong. It should not be trying to disrupt arrangements that have been put in place to protect our communities. Those we serve and protect have endured numerous strikes, but the negotiating positions of the Government and the Fire Brigades Union do not appear to have been affected in any way.
“In reality, strikes don’t work. Trying to play with public safety in this way does the union no credit, and undermines the professionalism and standing of our fantastic firefighters in the community.
“Firefighters in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes bravely, safely and expertly undertake all that we ask of them. They help people in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes every day, but they have also assisted at the floods in Somerset and Berkshire. Firefighters from the UK go to disaster areas all over the world to give aid and this is in the proudest traditions of our service ethos.
“It is very much for the public in an area to judge their own firefighters but, 30 years ago when I became a firefighter, the first priorities were to save life, reduce the risk to property and to render humanitarian services.
“I am disappointed that the union seems to want to force their members to lose sight of these principles. I simply do not believe that the firefighters of surrounding counties are too scared to come to our assistance if we need them to and, in any case, the men and women of this service will continue to do the great job they always do.”
Read what the Fire Brigades Union has to say about its concerns about our area by clicking the link