Shropshire fire chief disputes union claims and says county has 'robust plans' in place for strikes

The Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service's chief fire officer has disputed claims by a union representative that the county will be relying on a "small number" of strike-breaking firefighters in the event of walk outs.

Simon Hardiman the Chief Fire Officer at Shropshire Fire and Rescue
Simon Hardiman the Chief Fire Officer at Shropshire Fire and Rescue

The Shropshire Star reported yesterday how the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said Shropshire, like the rest of the country, would have to rely on firefighters that chose not to strike during any planned walkouts following the announcement this week that union members had voted for industrial action.

Billy Holland, regional secretary for the West Midlands FBU, had said: "If strikes take place then they will be supported in large numbers both at fire stations and in fire control rooms.

"We expect fire services to depend on the small number who choose not to strike to provide cover during any periods of action."

However, chief fire officer at Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, Simon Hardiman, said Mr Holland's comments could cause "unnecessary concern to the public we serve".

He said: "If industrial action goes ahead, the service has robust plans in place to ensure we continue to provide a service to our communities and fulfil our statutory obligations.

"Shropshire has a very different make-up to many other brigades, with a predominantly on-call firefighting staff. The statement given by the FBU representative demonstrates the picture nationally which is not necessarily mirrored in our county."

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has some 300 on-call firefighters - part time firefighters that are often not union members - that are expected to continue to work during the industrial action.

Mr Hardiman added: “We fully support firefighters receiving a fair rate of pay and respect their right to take industrial action. However, please be assured that plans are in place to maintain resilience throughout any period of industrial action and the claim that only a 'small number of firefighters’ will be operating during this time is highly inaccurate.”

The FBU says its members voted to strike after experiencing a 12 per cent drop in real terms earnings since 2010 but said they would not confirm any strike dates until after February 8.

Union members rejected a previous five per cent pay offer in November, arguing it would equal a real-terms pay cut given current high rate of inflation.

If the strikes go ahead, the industrial action will be the first nationwide walkout by firefighters in more than 20 years.

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