Essex Fire Service 'no strike' deals for fire crews
A fire service is to offer voluntary "no strike" contracts to key staff in Essex to provide cover during disputes.
Staff will get higher pay to work during a walkout by firefighters, Essex Fire Authority has revealed.
The move was made because the authority believes action by the Fire Brigades Union, involved in a 14-month dispute over cuts, is increasingly likely.
Fire Brigades Union members said this was a sign their calls for negotiation were being ignored.
Adrian Clarke, FBU regional secretary, said: "This latest move is the surest sign yet Essex fire chiefs are planning even bigger cuts in vital 999 services.
"And now they seem to be gearing up to copy London's fire chiefs who first wasted tax-payers money on preparing a strike-breaking force.
"Essex fire crews have ignored every provocation from fire chiefs over the 14 month dispute and have not once taken any industrial action other than refusing to volunteer to cover staffing shortages or work overtime."
Essex Fire Authority chairman Anthony Hedley said it was a sensible move and a decision the public would expect elected members to make on their behalf.'Protect families'
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Gordon Hunter said: "We need to ensure that should the worst happen and the current 14-month dispute is escalated, we can protect families living in Essex.
"That's what these new arrangements are designed to do."
The new contracts would offer enhanced pay to those firefighters, control staff and officers willing to guarantee their availability in serious times of need such as strike action, the fire authority said in a statement.
"Signing up to these contracts will be voluntary and the next step will be to solicit expressions of interest from key work groups," it said.