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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 January 2010

South Yorkshire firefighters forced to strike again

South Yorkshire Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has called a strike for 24/25 January and another from 27 January to 4 February. This is against bullying management's threat once again to sack firefighters if they don't agree to detrimental and imposed shift changes.

Alistair Tice

Fire chiefs, backed by the Labour-controlled Fire Authority, have been trying to force through 12 hour shifts for 18 months.

But firefighters fear these changes would make it easier for management to cut night-time fire cover and reduce staffing levels further.

FBU members went on strike seven times in the autumn, forcing the bosses to withdraw threatened dismissals and agree to go to ACAS arbitration to resolve the dispute, so further strike action was suspended.

But management have reneged on this deal, wanting to set pre-conditions to arbitration.

After FBU members rejected a further 'offer', South Yorkshire fire chief Mark Smitherman sent letters to all South Yorkshire firefighters saying they would be sacked if they didn't sign up to the new shift patterns by 18 January.

In response to the FBU's renewed strike call, Smitherman said: "Considering all the job losses and pay cuts being implemented elsewhere, I would urge the FBU to get into the real world!"

Fireman Sam from Barnsley replied on a blog:

"Priceless!, a quote from a man who had a 10% pay rise last year on top of the firefighters' below inflation 1%. He has probably had the same this year too!

"His wage this year is set to rise to 167,000 from 148,000... how dare this person tell anyone to get in the real world?

"By the way, the latest white elephant and complete waste of South Yorkshire people's taxes are the four appliances he bought which are not fit for purpose so cannot be used. This has cost over 500,000 each and are still no good."

Bus drivers

Firefighters could be joined on strike by Sheffield First bus drivers who are threatening to call renewed strikes after their negotiations over disciplinary procedures broke down.

650 Unite members at the Olive Grove depot took four days of strike action in the autumn, winning victories on five individual disciplinary cases and reinstating the 'day-board'.

But negotiations since to change the disciplinary and sickness procedures that are routinely used to bully and intimidate drivers and get these changes in writing have broken down.

With the 91% strike ballot still live, further action is due to be called.

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