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Posted on 19 August 2013 at 17:00 GMT

Stop the fire cuts!

Stop the fire cuts!   (Click to enlarge)

Support the FBU - end scab recruitment

Ronnie Job, Swansea

Fire authorities have been trying to recruit a scab labour force to undermine potential strike action by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).

Breaking strike action has seemingly been more important than safety of the public because there are serious concerns about the very limited training provided for a service that will be attempted to be passed off as safe.

Now the local Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Authority has angered former firefighters by trying to recruit them to their scab force to undermine former workmates and union comrades.

Some of them have been to the press to denounce the authority for this practice (see thisissouthwales.co.uk).

Mid and West Wales FBU have pointed out that there must be serious concerns about the work fitness of retired firefighters, who will not have undergone the regular medical and fitness checks working firefighters have undergone.

Fire chiefs are attempting to recruit this scab force for a dispute over government attacks on firefighters' pensions.

These attacks don't only threaten the value of firefighters' pensions but they also threaten public safety by forcing firefighters to work longer.

The government is well aware that if they increase the retirement age then more firefighters will be forced out of the service early through failing fitness tests. They're counting on penalising those retiring early to make savings in pensions.

It would be much better for firefighters if the government backed down on its attacks on firefighters' pensions and certainly a lot safer for the public if they didn't force the FBU into this dispute.

Unfortunately safety seems to come some way behind making cuts for the Mid and West Wales Authority, judging by the way they've halved shift numbers in Llanelli and introduced longer shifts.

They've also replaced tenders with something that looks like a transit van, carrying a fraction of the water, less equipment and ladders and one less firefighter.

'Howellgate'

Firefighters in Wales might look to the Welsh Government for protection but the fiasco of the attempted appointment of an advisor on fire and rescue service won't fill anyone with confidence. The whole affair has now been dubbed 'Howellgate' by the FBU.

It seems that the salary that Lee Howell earns as Devon and Somerset Fire Chief (138,000+ in 2011-12) isn't enough for him.

He's accepted a second, part time, job as Fire Advisor to the Welsh Government. In this role he stands to pick up 44,000 a year for two days' work a week, substantially more than the wage of a full-time firefighter.

However two days' work a week is substantially more than his main employers, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Authority, were under the impression he would be doing for his 44,000 a year.

When Howell's second job came to light, the chair of the authority was initially unconcerned; councillor Mark Healy said it would involve only "making the odd phone call".

FBU members and working class communities in Wales might be asking why the Welsh Government would plan to spend 44,000 on the odd phone call.

But it gets worse. Howell has overseen a reduction of 149 in the number of frontline firefighters in Devon and Somerset, nearly a fifth of the full-time firefighters of the force, halving numbers at some stations in the process.

It seems Howell has now been told to choose between the two jobs. The last thing firefighters in Wales need is another enthusiastic maker of cuts.

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