FIREFIGHTERS have lifted their industrial action against cuts in the Surrey brigade so that they can take on extra duties during the coronavirus crisis.

They have volunteered to drive ambulances, deliver food and medicines to vulnerable people, and retrieve dead bodies as the public health emergency intensifies.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) started an overtime ban and other action short of a strike in December, opposing plans to remove 70 firefighter jobs and seven frontline fire engines at night.

A shortage of firefighters, both wholetime and on-call, has been making it difficult for the brigade to constantly crew all its appliances. The FBU says 135 firefighter and control staff posts have been lost since 2010, a 19% reduction in emergency response personnel.

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service last week refused an offer by the union to stop its action if the reorganisation was postponed for a year, saying it would go ahead as planned on 1 April.

But the county FBU branch suspended its dispute on Monday evening, with the service agreeing to implement phase one of the cuts. This has made four appliances, including one of the engines at Woking Fire Station, unavailable at night.

“Surrey residents have stood with their firefighters against these dangerous cuts and now firefighters have agreed to postpone their industrial action and stand with them against this deadly virus,” branch secretary Jay Devey told the News & Mail.

“The cuts imposed by Surrey Fire and Rescue (SFRS) over the last decade have unmistakably damaged our ability to respond to emergencies, but for now it is essential that we all pull together and do our bit to beat this crisis.”

For the full story get the 2 April edition of the News & Mail