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Following the suicide bombing in the Manchester Arena where at least 22 people, including children, have been killed and more than 50 injured, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union Matt Wrack, who was born in Manchester, is today going to meet some of the firefighters who attended the scene.

Matt Wrack said:
“On behalf of firefighters across the UK we condemn this barbaric attack in Manchester, an assault on ordinary people going about their lives, which ruthlessly targeted children and young people. We send our thoughts and condolences to those who have lost family and friends and send our best wishes to those injured. The people of Manchester have demonstrated their humanity and solidarity by their immediate support of those affected by this terrible atrocity.

“Once again our emergency services have been on the front line of responding to a terror attack. We pay tribute to our own firefighters and our colleagues in all emergency services who did everything possible to save lives and keep the public safe.”

Public and Commercial Services Union members at the Equality and Human Rights Commission are to take 20 days of rolling strike action in a long-running dispute over budget cuts and redundancies.

The walkouts from the equality watchdog, which begin at the commission’s Glasgow office on Monday (15 May), follow 7 previous days of strike action in November, December, January, February and March.

Nine staff were given dismissal notices on 9 February, some by email with just 24 hours’ notice; three members of staff were also sacked by email a few weeks later. The EHRC put staff back on to the pay roll after protests by PCS and other unions but the dismissal notices have not been withdrawn and the staff concerned are banned from EHRC premises, their reinstatement is also part of the campaign.

Of the eight union members issued notices of compulsory redundancy, six are black or minority ethnic, five are disabled and seven are older workers. Four are union reps and one was a lead negotiator opposing the cuts. We are now pursuing legal action against the EHRC for victimisation of trade union representatives.

The union argues the staff should be redeployed into Commission vacancies – more than 30 of which have been identified within the Commission, some of which are the equivalent grades of the sacked staff – or found roles in the wider civil service.

The Commission's expenditure report for April shows it has spent £90,876 on agency staff in April and £17,900 on recruitment costs. The spending on agency staff is a significant increase on previous months - £44,000 in January, £61,000 in February and £65,000 in March.

The union says the EHRC has failed to adequately consider the equality implications of its restructuring, something it is responsible for ensuring other public bodies adhere to.

These cuts would leave the commission toothless and could threaten its UN-accredited status as a human rights body, the union says.

The strike action includes the following dates:

EHRC Glasgow –15 May to 19 May
EHRC London –22 May to 26 May
EHRC Cardiff – 29 May to 2 June
EHRC Manchester – 5 June to 9 June.
In addition, members will also be involved in action short of strike at these offices.

Some of the striking members are expected to be welcomed at the second day of the union’s annual delegate conference in Brighton on 24 May.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members only take strike action as a last resort but management’s reluctance to adequately address their concerns have given them no choice.

“There are vacancies at the Commission and there is no reason why our members can’t have those jobs.

“The fact that the government has cut the Commission to a quarter of its original size demonstrates the Tories’ lack of commitment to equality and human rights issues.

“Further budget and staff cuts would leave the commission toothless at a time when more needs to be done to tackle hate crime and discrimination.”

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will tomorrow (4th May 2017), in association with the Firefighters Memorial Trust charity, mark the first annual Firefighters’ Memorial Day to commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of firefighters who have died in the line of duty. Since records began 2,486 firefighters have died whilst on duty serving their communities and keeping people safe.

This is a day when members of the public and the fire and rescue service are invited to remember the selfless professionals who run toward danger, when others are running away. This a day to remember the fallen, comfort their families and pay respect to the profession.

At fire stations around the U.K., a minute long silence will be held at Midday and a memorial parade will take place on station forecourts in honour of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Susan Veevers, mother of the late Manchester firefighter Stephen Hunt who died on duty in 2013, said: “Families like ours who have suffered these terrible bereavements will welcome the introduction of an annual memorial day for their loved ones.

“Stephen and all the other firefighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty deserve to be remembered and respected formally, and we very much hope that as many fire stations as possible around the country will observe a minute’s silence in their honour, this Thursday and on the 4th of May every year from now on.”

Linda Williamson, mother of late Edinburgh firefighter Ewan Williamson who died whilst tackling a fire in 2009, said: “We as a family who have suffered such a devastating loss welcome the introduction of a Firefighters’ Memorial Day. After all it could have been any one of you on duty at the time. Firefighters everywhere should remember their fallen colleague my son Ewan forever.”

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary and a former firefighter, said: “Firefighters’ Memorial Day is about honouring the courage and bravery of the men and women of the fire service. These are highly skilled professionals who selflessly put themselves in the line of danger to protect others. We owe them so much, and this is a day to remember what they give their communities.

“Firefighters understand the risks associated with their job but they do expect to come home safe after each shift. Sadly, this is not always the case. It’s important that none of us forget the sacrifice these men and women have made in order to keep people safe.

“We hope this day will bring comfort and strength to the families and loved ones of those who have been lost.”

Since records began 2,486 firefighters are known to have died whilst on duty serving their communities and keeping people safe, according to the Firefighters Memorial Trust.

Colin Livett, chair of the trust, said: “Fire does not distinguish between men, women or children - race, religion or creed. Neither do firefighters, they answer the call and do their duty. Some pay the ultimate sacrifice.”



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