Thursday, November 30, 2006

Merseyside Fire Authority Stir Up More Trouble

Following the partial defeat of their cuts agenda this summer, Merseyside Fire Authority is trying to get its own back, and weaken the morale of victorious firefighters. Three weeks ago, letters were served to fourteen emergency crew members, calling them to hearings over incidents during the walkout, including one for 'smiling aggressively'. Now a firefighter is in trouble for drinking a cup of tea!

After four weeks of strike action this September, Merseyside FBU succeeded in saving essential services from 3.5 million of cuts demanded by the government. Instead, the cuts were moved away from the frontline.

Now, a firefighter faces disciplinary proceedings after being caught having a cuppa while working at Buckley Hill fire station in Netherton.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service insists tea breaks can be taken only at certain times, and the first firefighter to break the rule was caught with an unauthorised mug of tea while checking equipment in an appliance room.

Managers launched an investigation and told the firefighter - who has asked not to be named - that he would be put on a charge and face disciplinary proceedings once his initial interview was looked at.

Les Skarratts, secretary of Merseyside Fire Brigades Union, said: "They should stop being so petty and ridiculous. Firefighters save lives and they have enough to put up with without this nonsense.

"This firefighter was doing his daily checks and tests in the appliance room, and had taken a hot drink with him. That is not worthy of a disciplinary investigation.

"He will be interviewed by senior managers and undergo a disciplinary hearing. He could get a written warning on an otherwise exemplary service record, but the ultimate sanction is that he could lose his job."

Senior officers have sent a series of emails banning firefighters from enjoying a cuppa outside designated breaks.

Mr Skarratts said: "It is a waste of public money and firefighters' time issuing these edicts. We are very frustrated over this."

Firefighters on Merseyside have a lot to smile about following their tremendous victory, which was won thanks to great solidarity, in spite of a corporate media campaign against the union. Not surprisingly, the bosses who tried to break the FBU can't bear to see happy - or even relaxed - workers.

For in-depth analysis of the dispute, visit the Liverpool indymedia feature
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