Row over lock-outs to striking firefighters

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Firefighters claim that the fire service is posing “serious questions” to public safety, by ‘locking out’ striking firemen during this week’s industrial action.

From July 14-22 members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) are striking for two or four hours every day.

However, Buckinghamshire firefighters will be ‘locked out’ for a total of 175 hours during the period.

Steve Allen, FBU chair for the union’s southern region, said: “This wholly unnecessary decision will directly impact upon the safety of the public in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.

“It is a vindictive action by an employer to punish their local firefighters for participating in lawful strike action.

“We’re appealing to the fire authority to apply common sense and let firefighters do their job.”

Chief fire officer Mark Jones said: “It seems to me that comments about how we manage the FBU’s decision to go on strike are engineered to divert attention away from the fact that it has chosen to withdraw its labour on so many occasions and place the public at risk. It also seems that the FBU doesn’t just want to go on strike - it also wants to control how Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service manages the absence of its members.

“Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes Fire Authority made a lawful and reasonable decision last December, in which it considered the considerable costs to the local taxpayer of this ongoing dispute. The FBU made no representations on these matters at the time.

“However, I have been very impressed with some of the ideas expressed by the firefighters I have spoken to on picket lines as to how we might come to agreement which would lessen the financial impact upon striking firefighters and the risk to our communities.

“We managed to minimise the financial impacts of the 10 July strike on some of our staff by adjusting start times. I had hoped that seeing this flexibility operate would have stimulated the FBU into seeking further such local agreements to help their members.”