Plot is hatched to smash fire strike

HeadLine: PLOT IS HATCHED TO SMASH FIRE STRIKE

The Mirror, 21/01/2003, p10
By RICHARD GRAY, SHAUN MILNE & RON MOORE

FIREMASTERS have been ordered to attend a crunch government meeting
aimed at smashing the firefighters’ strikes.
On the eve of the latest 24-hour stoppage to hit the service, all eight
of Scotland’s senior fire bosses have been summoned to attend a special
summit in London.
They will join fire chiefs from across the UK in the meeting just hours
after today’s planned walkout ends.
Fire Minister Nick Raynsford is expected to instruct the firemasters to
introduce the government’s controversial modernisation plans in their
areas in a bid to force through cuts in the service.
But we can reveal at least two of Scotland’s firemasters – who oppose
the planned cuts – are to snub the meeting.
And yesterday furious FBU officials accused ministers of double-dealing.
FBU spokesman John McDonald said: “They are asking us to attend talks
while pushing ahead with their modernisation plans regardless.
“What’s the point in holding negotiations if they’re just going to
force their plans through anyway. This is no way to resolve a dispute
and is only going to provoke it further.”
Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott yesterday admitted to MPs that
tomorrow’s meeting is aimed at “helping us drive forward the
modernisation agenda outlined in the Bain Report.”
All of Scotland’s firemasters, except Strathclyde boss Jeff Ord, have
insisted they oppose cuts to the fire service.
And last night two of them revealed that they would not be attending
the meeting.
Central Scotland firemaster John Early and Tayside firemaster Stephen
Hunter will instead remain in their brigade areas to help pick up the
pieces after today’s strike.
They both said they were too busy to attend but their decision is being
interpreted as a protest at the government’s modernisation plans.
Mr Early said: “I’m working an eight hour shift in the joint control
room during the strike and then I have to return the service to normal
afterwards.
“I am far too busy to attend this meeting.”
Mr Hunter added: “It is not logistically possible for me to attend.”
Union officials met with Mr Prescott yesterday in last ditch talks
aimed at avoiding today’s 24-hour strike – which starts at 9am – and
two further 48-hour walkouts scheduled for January 28 and February 1.
But last night the FBU confirmed the strikes would go ahead after Mr
Prescott insisted “pay and modernisation must go hand-in-hand”.
Union officials insisted they would never sign-up to the proposed
changes which involve the loss of 4,500 jobs.
FBU leader Andy Gilchrist said: “We now know that modernisation is a
four letter word – cuts.
“It means cuts to the number of fire stations, cuts to the number of
fire engines and cuts in the number of firefighters.”

**



Categories: Daily Mirror articles

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