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East Sussex fire strike contingency plans "like Dad's Army"
The public could be put at risk by a “Dad’s Army” of replacements set to step-in during a proposed firefighters strike, union officials have warned.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union have raised doubts about the suitability of East Sussex Fire and Rescue Emergency Service contingency plans in the event of a strike by firefighter.
The union claims that some senior officials due to step in to the breach have not ridden a fire engine in 25 years and question whether they will undergo the same intensive training that striking firefighters received.
Fire chiefs said they still hoped that the dispute could be resolved before strike action but reassured the public that they would be safe under any contingency plans.
Earlier this month, members of the Fire Brigades Union nationally backed industrial action in a dispute over pensions. No date has been set for when a strike may take place.
East Sussex union officials said that contingency plans would involve a “bare bones” service with not enough replacements to fill the boots of striking firefighters.
An East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman said the service recognised and respected the right of trade union members to take lawful industrial action and that there were long standing plans in place to deal “effectively” with any disruption to services.
She said: “Until the FBU makes it clear if and when strikes may take place and how long they may last, we are not able to be specific about how we will use our resources.
“However we would like to reassure people that we are doing all we can to prepare for every eventuality and we will release more detail when we are able.”
She added that contingency crew members had to demonstrate they were fit and that their skills were up to date for operational duties and that plans had been drawn up concerning which stations were most appropriately located to cover across a large area.
Sean Ruth, chief fire officer for West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said: “In the weeks leading up to the ballot we’ve put considerable work into our contingency planning and will continue to do so to ensure the impact of any strike action on public safety is kept to a minimum.”
He added: “This is a national dispute and not one that can be resolved locally but at this stage we are still hopeful that the Government and the FBU reach a resolution and prevent any strike action.”
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