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STRIKING FIREFIGHTERS BACK NEW PAY TALKS




5th DECEMBER 2002

STORY: HUW WAGHORN
hugh.waghorn@gwent-wales.co.uk


PHOTO: RICHARD VELARDO



The camp fire graced by the only Politician to care

ON THE FRONT LINE: ADAM PRICE MP WITH LOCAL FIREFIGHTERS WHEN HE VISITED THE STATION LAST FRIDAY IN AMMANFORD

STRIKING Ammanford fire fighters were expected not to resume their strike action yesterday (Wed) after last week's eight-day stoppage.

Union representatives were back at the negotiating table – a stand backed by local firefighters who spoke to the Guardian on their picket line in Ammanford last week.

During the stoppage they said the were determined not to back down – but maintained their willingness to carry on negotiating.

They claimed that the Government's modernisation plans, which include downsizing the service to the tune of 10,000 jobs, would seriously endanger the lives of residents in Ammanford and the surrounding area.

Despite still holding out for a 40 percent hike in their pay, the firefighters have hinted that they would be prepared to accept a lower sum, as long as it is fair.

Neil Macpherson, Brigade Secretary for Mid and West Wales, joined his colleagues on the picket line at Ammanford Fire Station on Friday and told the Guardian that every firefighter is prepared to continue with strike action for as long as it takes.

“I genuinely think that we have a just case and every firefighter is ready to carry on striking until our case is heard fairly,” he said.

“Public support is clearly there and we now have trade union support, which worries the Government.

“All we want is fair pay and we have always been prepared to negotiate over this issue.

The government do not seem willing to compromise and their attitude amazes us. They keep going on about productivity. But we are not in the business of serving customers, we are in the business of saving lives.

“I'm not prepared to put up with the risk of attending a fire with fewer firefighters – I have a family to go home to at the end of the day.”

Public support has been strong throughout the strike, but the consensus that it will begin to wane the longer striking continues was staunchly rejected.

“We are not in the least bit worried about the waning of public support,” said Neil Macpherson.

“We've had a number of people coming up to us who disagree with what we're doing.

“But once we've explained to them the complexities of the issue, they fully appreciate our plight.”

The firefighters received a morale-boosting visit from Adam Price MP on Friday, who turned out to offer his support to their cause.

The MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, told the Guardian on the picket line: Nobody wants this strike apart from the Government, who are using it to make an example of the FBU.

“The Government have just offered a 10 percent increase to NHS staff, so why can't they do the same here?”


DON'T GET YOUR FINGERS BURNED
(A FIRE SAFETY MESSAGE)

SOUTH Wales Fire Service has issued safety advice in the wake of the firefighters national pay strike.

A spokesman said: “We are all aware of how easily a fire can start and it is wise to pay extra attention to the frequent causes of fire.”

They are:

Unattended cooking pots and pans;

Unsafe use of candles and nightlight's;

Children playing with matches and lighters; Unsafe use of electrical equipment;

Poorly-maintained heating equipment;

Uncontrolled burning refuse;

Carelessly discarded smoking materials and,

Smoking in bed.

The fire brigade spokesman also advised:

Fire spreads rapidly.

The toxic gases contained in smoke disables and kills within seconds.

“A fully working smoke alarm gives an early warning of a fire, so that you can safely leave the house by the normal way.

“It is vital that you have a working smoke alarm.

Change the battery now.

“Make sure that you follow a night-time routine of turning off all electrical equipment that is not designed to stay on. Protect an open fire with a fireguard.

“Close all doors and keep your escape route free of obstructions.”

In the event of a smoke alarm sounding, follow an agreed Fire Action Plan.

Decide how to get all your family out of the house, where to meet and what to do if your escape rout is blocked by smoke.

Fore further fire safety advice please call 0800 3281830

The telephone number is no doubt obsolete.

The strike in 1977 and 2003 were found to be the best way to get fire prevention and fire safety messages across. There is always a substantial reduction in fire calls, during and after the industrial action.

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