FOUR DAY STRIKE: Cambs fire crews to hand over to ‘resilience teams’ as chief fire officer warns of ‘zero tolerance of any behaviour that constitutes bullying or harassment’

Cambs fire crews begin four day strike from 6pm.

Cambs fire crews begin four day strike from 6pm. - Credit: Cambs Fire & Rescue Service

Full time firefighters will formally hand control of Cambridgeshire fire service tonight to managers, on call part time firefighters, and re-trained back office workers to keep the county safe.

What are termed ‘resilience crews’ will begin arriving at fire stations from around 5.30pm ready for the hand over at 6pm when the Fire Brigades Union begins a four day official strike over pensions.

A report by the Cambridgeshire fire authority notes that during recent shorter stoppages there has usually been a “respectful and professional approach”. However the report says that there have been two investigations into reported “inappropriate behaviour” that were related to previous industrial actions.

“The chief fire officer Graham Stagg had made it clear that the service will have zero tolerance of any behaviour that constitutes bullying or harassment”, says the report.

Fire crews across Cambridgeshire have already taken part in 62 periods of strike action over 31 days from July 2013 to end of August this year. The fire service estimates the total cost of industrial action to date has been £300,000 that includes £65,000 “salary recovered from those striking”.

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The county’s fire chief is warning there is likely to be a delayed response to 999 incidents during the strike.

Mr Stagg said: “This four-day continuous strike is different to any of the others that have taken place over the past year. To provide fire cover throughout this period is challenging and there is a higher risk this weekend because of Halloween and bonfire night.”

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Cambridgeshire is one of the few services in the country providing what is termed ‘resilience’ during strike action, crewed by officers, a few employees not involved in strike action and some trained support staff.

A report to the fire authority says ‘resilience contracts’ with group and station commanders means these people agree also to provide fire cover in the event of strike action.

“During the current period of industrial action only two managers have withdrawn from their resilience contracts,” says the report.

Cambridgeshire will also be relying on support from firefighters on the on-call duty system since the Retained Firefighters Union (RFU) “has an informal no-strike agreement, although the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) has targeted staff working the on-call system in recent years”.

The report says only six on-call stations have supported industrial action and a further tow on call stations “had their availability impacted during periods of industrial action owing to the number of personnel whose primary employment is as a whole time firefighter”.

Staff not usually deployed to the ‘front line’ have been on four day refresher courses- everyone from station commanders to Mr Stagg himself- to ensure their “skills and competencies were at the required levels”.

There was a warning to fire authority members that during strike action “the service has no aerial or water capability and should this be required would have to adapt firefighting and rescue tactics to manage the incident”.

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