Saturday 2 September 2006

A Message of Solidarity to the Firefighters in Dispute in Liverpool

I send a message of support to the firefighters taking industrial action in Liverpool. No firefighter takes industrial action lightly but there comes a time when they see their service being put at risk and neither management nor government is willing to listen and so they have no alternative. That is what is happening in Liverpool and increasingly in other fire authority areas, as we saw in Hertfordshire only weeks ago.

Disputes are breaking out in various areas across the country as the local fire authorities develop their local integrated risk management plans. The Government has scrapped national fire safety standards and has withdrawn from any role in monitoring or enforcing any national performance levels. Instead local fire authorities have the responsibility to produce a local risk management plan, setting out local staffing levels and the level and type of service needed within their areas.

Some fire authorities have seen this as an opportunity to cut firefighter jobs, remove pumps and close fire stations.

The Government has washed its hands of setting national standards to which local fire authorities must adhere or of intervening to ensure fire authorities abide by any particular minimum level of staffing. The result is that in some areas local managers are riding roughshod over the views and experience of their front line staff.

The fear is that cutting firefighter jobs in LIverpool or anywhere else will put lives at risk. That is why I fully support the FBU not only in the industrial action its members are taking in Liverpool but also in calling upon management of the fire authority to engage in meaningful talks to resolve this dispute.