Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Firemens' dispute with Government flares up again


Firefighters protest outside The Convent today as the dispute with the Gibraltar Government continues
The dispute between the City Fire Brigade [CFB] and the Gibraltar Government flared up again yesterday as off duty fire fighters held a peaceful, yet noisy protest outside No 6 Convent Place.

Under the watchful eye of a hefty contingent of police officers, about 50 firemen marched on No 6 to the background of a lively drumbeat, blaring horns and piercing whistles. They kept up the rhythmic barrage of noise non-stop for two hours in a bid to ram their message home.

The firemen are back on selective industrial action again after failing to make any progress towards a settlement at a meeting with the government last week.

“Last week our representatives sat down with government in the expectation of entering a process of meaningful negotiations,” the CFB said in a statement yesterday.

“Yet all they got was a one-sided monologue from government.

Today’s demonstration is being held to remind government that CFB members’ stance remains the same, and its determination as strong as ever.”

The firemen, who have the full backing of their union ACTS, said they were open to “meaningful dialogue” and urged the government to engage with them in order to bring the dispute to an end.

But the government, which did not comment on yesterday’s protest, had previously stated that the purpose of last week’s meeting had been to explain the merits of its offer, rather than to open negotiations. With both sides unwilling to budge, the situation now appears to be a stalemate.

Last Friday, the firemen decided to escalate their industrial action and take whatever steps they could to increase the pressure, though spokesmen insisted yesterday that there was no risk to Gibraltar’s residents and that full fire cover was in place.

Some protection has been withdrawn from selected Ministry of Defence sites as part of the escalation, though these exclude military residential locations. The Defence Fire Service has, in any case, drafted in extra personnel to cover the gaps.

Additionally, the CFB is only carrying out repairs on its own fleet of vehicles and has withdrawn maintenance on ambulances that it does not operate directly.

Fire safety officers have also reduced the number of inspections they are carrying out daily by opting to walk, rather than drive, to appointments.

Further protests outside No 6 are also likely.

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