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Fire chiefs accused of ‘act of revenge’ against crew who campaigned against cuts

FIRE  chiefs in Merseyside stand accused of “an act of revenge” by breaking up crews from two fire stations who successfully campaigned against life-threatening cuts.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said bosses told the crews at Liverpool city centre and Wallasey fire stations that they would be dispersed to other sites across Merseyside.

And their jobs will go to firefighters who aren’t in the union, FBU warns.

Merseyside Fire Authority denied the accusation, saying it was lobbying the government to reverse cuts.

The authority said changes were being made in “the most fair and equitable way possible.”

As previously reported in the Morning Star, fire services in Merseyside — and across Britain — are being savagely attacked by Tory austerity.

Merseyside FBU says that firefighter numbers are being reduced from 927 to 580 between 2010 and 2020, with the number of fire appliances cut from 42 to 22.

Fire deaths have increased from five in 2010-11 to 16 in 2015-16 on Merseyside.

Liverpool city centre and Wallasey fire stations are currently staffed 24 hours a day but Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s proposals will cut immediate cover to 12 hours a day.

Firefighters would be expected to be “on call” at home at night, increasing the response time to emergencies by 30 minutes, according to the FBU.

A union campaign forced the authority to temporarily drop its plans and open a consultation on increasing council tax to cover 24-hour operations.

FBU north-west regional secretary Mark Rowe told the Morning Star: “The FBU mounted a campaign involving politicians, the public, communities and we managed to unite all the constituency Labour parties who were sending letters to the papers about withdrawal of night-time shifts at the two stations.

“There were demonstrations, public meetings. We got everybody involved.

“Now they are looking to go back to the public and ask if they can increase the council tax so they can keep the two stations open overnight.

“But firefighters at the stations have been told they are being moved out and they are going to use non-union firefighters.

“They are posting the crews for the two stations all over the place.

“It is a full attack on us. This is just an act of revenge. It has caused widespread anger. It is appalling. In my 31 years as a firefighter I have seen nothing like it.

“This is about an attack on firefighters, saying that if you stand up to defend your community this is what will happen.”

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority said it “simply [doesn’t] have enough staff” to cover the two stations because of budget cuts.

“All changes have been made in the most fair and equitable way possible — and are certainly not based on union membership,” an authority spokesperson said.

“No-one has ever suggested that these changes will make people safer or that they will have no impact on staff — but they do represent the least-worst option and have been implemented in a way that is believed to have the least impact on our firefighters.”

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