No fire cover for eight days as dispute heats up

Paul Whitehouse

FIREFIGHTERS last night announced an eight-day strike in South Yorkshire, to follow a 48-hour stoppage due to start on Sunday.

The eight-day strike will be the longest the county has been without fire cover since the dispute, over plans to change fire crews’ shift patterns, erupted.

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A series of shorter strikes was held in the autumn but was suspended in an attempt to get the dispute resolved through Acas.

However, brigade managers and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) have failed even to agree “terms of reference”, the starting point for Acas to consider the arguments and make a decision, blaming each other.

The latest strike will start at 9am on January 27, a day after the end of the 48-hour action announced late last week.

FBU regional secretary Ian Murray said: “Local fire crews have been trying to drag managers to Acas for many months and obstacles have been placed in our way at every turn. The latest block is the fire authority insisting they only want Acas to resolve part of the dispute and not all of it.”

However a spokesman for the service said: “We are waiting to sign the terms of reference to go to Acas for binding arbitration, and the FBU has been aware of this since Thursday.”

It has also emerged that a firefighter has been sacked and four others punished as a result of comments made on the Facebook social networking site over the industrial dispute.

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue has confirmed that one employee has been dismissed, though an appeal against the decision has been made.