The souring of relations has been shadowed by the news that the government plans to use private contractors rather than the army to cover any future strikes, due to the armed forces being overstretched in Afghanistan. This has been condemned by unions who see the move as a creeping privatisation of emergency services.
The chief executive of a firm who has signed a contract with the London service was quoted in the Guardian this week as saying “this market is potentially huge and there is no reason why this trend could not spread to other emergency agencies”.
The Manchester fire fighting service is split into two boroughs which share five stations. On 1 July a new system was implemented by the Greater Manchester Fire Authority whereby fire engines are shared by the stations to provide cover on different days of the week. The result, the FBU claims, is that 18 times a week a fire engine is unavailable to one of the stations. Incredibly Manchester Central is not classified as a key area and so receives less cover.
Against the backdrop of recession the government has pledged to massively cut its public spending in order to avert an inflationary crisis. The FBU believes frontline services will be detrimentally affected and its members are to be balloted on changes to working conditions and reductions in staff levels.
Petition your local councilor at the Save Our Fire Services website, run by Manchester FBU at http://www.manchester.fbu.org.uk/?page_id=61