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Our firefighters joined huge protest
7:20am Sunday 29th July 2012 in News
HUNDREDS of firefighters stopped traffic and turned heads as the public supported a march to highlight anger at cuts to the fire service in Essex.
Firefighters are at loggerheads with their bosses over planned changes to crews, which union officials say will put lives at risk.
A huge march through the centre of Chelmsford ended with Matt Wrack, secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, announcing more strike dates.
Crews from Essex were joined in Chelmsford, on July 18, by firefighters from all over the country.
Colleagues from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Devon, Yorkshire, the Midlands and Tyne and Wear were in mid Essex to join the 24-hour walkout.
The march, which had a police escort, brought the centre of Chelmsford to a standstill as it left Admirals Park just after noon and passed through the centre of the city to Central Park.
Nick Mayes, assistant secretary of the FBU in Essex and member of green watch in Brentwood for 26 years, said: “It was an excellent turnout at short notice and the numbers proved it was not just a march of union officials, but serving firefighters from up and down the county.
“It was great to see the public out supporting us and we just hope we can start negotiating and stop talking about having talks.”
The march was led by Mr Wrack, who had the crowd chanting “no more cuts”.
The men and women paused outside County Hall, in Duke Street, where there was a large chorus of boos and hisses as the firefighters made their feelings towards politicians known.
Alan Chinn-Shaw, chairman of the FBU in Essex, said: “The fire service’s reserves have gone from £4million to £12million in recent years and in the same period we’ve lost 160 firefighters.
“We are getting massive cuts in Essex. They would like to cut one in five positions.”
Two more strikes were planned, but Mr Wrack announced more which will now be held.
The strike dates are: * August 11, from 2.30pm until 5.30pm and from 9pm until midnight.
* August 12, from 9am until 6am the following day, carrying out no duties other than responding to 999 calls * September 5, from 9am until 1pm * October 18, from 11am until 4pm.