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Issue #1619      November 20, 2013

Police used against firefighters’ strike

BRITAIN: Uniformed police are being used to drive scab fire engines to break firefighters’ strike action in West Yorkshire, pickets and police have confirmed. A woman police officer is among those seen driving engines through firefighters’ picket lines, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said.

Leeds fire station, which covers the city centre, was among the picket lines crossed. FBU Leeds division chairman Paul Drinkwater, a firefighter there, said: “They have been used throughout the strike in West Yorkshire.

“They are driving appliances. It is appalling. It isn’t being hidden. They are in police uniform.”

He said that on the first day of strike action on September 25, half a dozen police were on duty at West Yorkshire Fire Service’s headquarters at Birkenshaw in Bradford.

Mr Drinkwater said police were being used “only to drive appliances” rather than firefighting. “But using the police to strike-break is appalling,” he said.

“Are they going to be driving ambulances if there is an ambulance strike? Where do you draw the line?”

A statement issued by West Yorkshire Police and obtained by the FBU through West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner’s office said: “West Yorkshire Police have been assisting with the industrial dispute that has recently occurred and continue to do so as the safety of the public is paramount.

“The police work on a regular basis with our partners in West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and will remain available to ensure that the best services possible are delivered to the people of West Yorkshire.”

The statement was issued in advance of the four-hour stoppage which took place last week and admitted that police were to be deployed again “assisting our colleagues in the fire service on Wednesday in a variety of roles.”

FBU Yorkshire and the Humber regional secretary Peter Smith said: “All this is going to do is drag the strike out.”

And FBU general secretary Matt Wrack confirmed that the union was looking into the reports.

He said: “West Yorkshire Fire Service has been assuring us that they had sufficient provisions in place to deal with industrial action by firefighters.

“If police officers are being drafted in to plug gaps you’d have to question whether their contingencies are adequate.”

West Yorkshire Fire Service told the Morning Star newspaper: “Police have been assisting in a range of roles during the dispute as per our contingency plans.”

Earlier the authority admitted that in the run-up to strike action it was recruiting from the ranks of the region’s unemployed, providing six weeks’ basic training in readiness to deploy recruits as strike-breakers.

It also confirmed it had approached retired firefighters, asking them to come out of retirement to break the strike.

FBU Yorkshire and the Humber national executive committee member Ian Murray said there had been no reports to the union of police being used to break the strike in other fire service areas.

Morning Star

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