Firefighter Strike Costs Thousands
4 September 2013, 11:50
A fire-fighter strike will cost Oxfordshire tax-payers £24,000 every day.
A private company will provide three emergency vehicles during a national walkout, though no date has been set yet.
The company, Securitas, is also paid a £75,000 annual retainer. It is thought Oxfordshire is the only part of the UK outside London that has such an arrangement.
Meanwhile, Berkshire's fire service is putting plans in place, which includes hiring members of the public to provide cover, and issuing safety advice.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) call for a strike comes after national negotiations on pay and pension reform failed to reach an agreement.
In a statement, Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said it had been trying to get an agreement locally, based on a national protocol which allows workers to carry on doing life and business-saving activities during strike action.
So far, the Fire Brigades Union locally has not signed up, but an agreement has been reached on cover for emergencies that require eight fire appliances or more.
Cllr Rodney Rose, Deputy Leader of Oxfordshire County Council said: "It is a real disappointment that we haven't been able to agree a way forward. I hope that this dispute can be resolved quickly and firefighters can get back to what they want and the public expects, which is to protect the community. "At least here in Oxfordshire there has been strong forward planning to mitigate negative impacts of strike action."
Hampshire's Deputy Chief Officer, Dave Curry, said: "We are hopeful the Government and the FBU can resolve this national dispute and prevent any industrial action. "While we acknowledge the results of the ballot and respect the rights of our firefighters to take lawful industrial action, we remain hopeful that negotiations will continue and this stage will not be reached.
"However, I would like to reassure the public we have robust business continuity plans in place to minimise the impact on the safety of our communities should strike action be announced."
Meanwhile, Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service is reassuring the public that it will be 'business as usual' in the event of strike action.
Mick Osborne, Head of Service Delivery for Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service, said all calls will be answered and responded to. He added: "We have prepared a robust business continuity plan in case a strike happens, which has enough capacity to allow us to continue to deliver a safe level of cover across Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes.
"However, should any industrial action take place, there is inevitably going to be an impact on our usual response times." He urged the public to be 'vigilant', and to take extra precautions to prevent fires.
"We are still very hopeful that a compromise can be reached between the government and firefighters and that our business continuity arrangements will not have to be tested", he added.
Some fire-fighters across the Thames Valley will not be striking, because they have signed additional contracts stating their commitment to work through strikes.
Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service told Heart it has been recruiting members of the public to provide cover. Acting Chief Fire Officer Olaf Baars said: "They will have a very limited capability, but they will nonetheless be trained to assist the public of Berkshire when they're most needed, and they will add a valuable contribution"
Control room staff will not be affected by any potential industrial action and will continue as normal.
More information for Oxfordshire residents can be found here: 365Alive.co.uk.
More information for Berkshire residents can be found here: http://www.rbfrs.co.uk/
More informaion for Buckinghamshire residents can be found here: http://www.bucksfire.gov.uk/Bucksfire/default.htm
More information for Hampshire residents can be found here: http://www.hantsfire.gov.uk/