HEREFORD and Worcester firefighters are threatening to go on strike because of new working arrangements imposed on them.

The Fire Brigades Union has lodged a trade dispute and criticised ‘confrontational’ bosses for imposing new duty systems and contracts without meaningful consultation.

The union says it will consider industrial action if the dispute is not resolved by August 9.

They say that service chiefs have forced firefighters to perform managerial and supervisory duties outside of their contract, while new recruits have been placed on new contracts without discussion with the union.

The two sides have clashed a number of times over the imposition of a 10-hour day shift system.

And the union says that the service gave the FBU a single day’s notice before imposing the controversial shift system after ignoring recommendations from a technical advisory panel.

Andrew Scattergood, FBU West Midlands regional secretary, said: “From the start, we’ve been reasonable and open to discussion, but we’ve had no reciprocal response from management, despite assurances that discussions would be conducted in good faith.

“We want to find a solution to ensure that firefighters are safe at work and are able to properly protect their community, but the chief fire officer has refused to engage and seems interested only in imposition rather than proper negotiation.

“We’re disappointed that it’s come to this, but we have no choice but to lodge this dispute.”

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “We won’t stand by and let heavy-handed management trample on the rights of firefighters.

“Our local reps have worked tirelessly to engage constructively, only to be ignored and undermined by the chief fire officer.

“The arrogance is appalling. Firefighters in Hereford and Worcester will have the full support of the FBU and of firefighters across the country.”

The FBU is demanding the immediate return to the previous contracts, shift systems, and conditions of employment, and that all new contracts be collectively negotiated and agreed by the FBU.

The union says the service has until August 9 to agree unconditionally to their terms, before the FBU considers industrial action.

A fire and rescue service spokesperson said they have been trying to change systems for the last three years to allow more firefighters to be available to crew engines and to support the community.

“Unfortunately, this has been consistently rejected by the FBU,” he said.

“In contrast, our discussions with the other recognised trade unions have been both pragmatic and constructive over this period.

“We have tried everything to reach agreement with the FBU through local discussions and negotiation and through the agreed national negotiation process.

“It is a complete surprise and is really disappointing to receive this confrontational ultimatum now – as in the last month we have even asked the FBU to join with us in referring this issue to ACAS for conciliation and mediation.

“Unfortunately, that was rejected by them and so, within the last week we have also offered to make a joint referral to ACAS for arbitration.

“Given the letter we have received today, the FBU appears to have rejected that offer as well.

“Industrial action will benefit no-one, so we urge the FBU to join with us in referring the issue to ACAS to help resolve these differences.”