Strikes hit fire and probation services in the North East

Protests by the probation service are to be staged today at courts across the region following on from firefighters' strikes yesterday

Tom Capeling, chief fire officer of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service
Tom Capeling, chief fire officer of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

A spate of strike action began yesterday as firefighters from across the region staged their third strike in less than two months.

They took action over pensions issues as probation staff prepare to protest against privitisation plans.

During the firefighters’ strike, which took place between 6am and 8am on Monday, replacement fire crews were called to four emergencies, including a special service in West Moor, North Tyneside. The other three call-outs were false alarms.

Chief fire officer for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Tom Capeling, said: “In the case of industrial action, the fire authority and I have a legal duty to provide a fire and rescue service as far as is reasonably practicable. As with all fire and rescue services, military support and the green goddesses are no longer an option to us in carrying out our duty to protect the public.

“The Service put its plans in place to provide a limited response service during the strike, as it did on Friday, November 1.

“This plan is not designed to replicate the excellent service our firefighters provide every day of the week; however it was aimed at providing a core service in the event of industrial action.

Industrial action in the fore service comes as controversial plans to privatise probation services go forward.

MPs have warned the move will undermine North East probation services even though they were given top marks by inspectors.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Newcastle MP Nick Brown told Ministers: “I do not understand why the Government are trying to do this to the probation service, which is a good public service.

“Feeling is particularly strong in the area I represent. A fortnight ago, I presented a petition signed by more than 2,000 local citizens in defence of the Northumbria probation trust, which is rated as exceptional.”

Ministers are planning to outsource responsibility for medium and low risk offenders. Probation staff will be protesting at courts across the North East and the UK today.

Justice Minister Chris Grayling said: “Every day of every week, innocent people are the victims of crimes committed by offenders who could be turned away from a life of crime if only there were someone there to help them to do that.”

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer