INDUSTRIAL action because of a row over firefighters’ pensions has cost the taxpayer £10,000 per strike, it has been revealed.
Essex Fire Service and the Firefighter Brigade Union have been locked in a national dispute over pensions, with several localised strikes organised.
The fire service has put £300,000 a year into its budgets since 2011 to cope with disruptive events.
But the organisation has revealed each strike has cost it around £10,000 per strike because of higher costs of replacements.
The finance report said: “The latest national dispute between the FBU and the Government over pensions has placed an additional financial burden of around £10k per strike on the authority as the costs of implementing the resilience arrangements are more than the savings in firefighter pay.
“Essex Fire Authority agreed to establish a budget to support the resilience arrangements for strike periods from April 2011 during the period of a local dispute between the FBU and the authority.”
The last high profile strike from the FBU took place on New Year’s Eve, with a war of words breaking out between the union and fire chiefs after striking firefighters were told they were not welcome back for the rest of their shift after their strike had concluded.
The £300,000 fund has been included in the service’s draft 2014/15 budget,with the dispute still unresolved.
A spokesman for the union said: “If that is the expenditure, then I am disappointed because that is quite a big chunk of cash.
“It seems like a lot of money to be spending on a small amount of staff for resilience during strikes.”
The cash for emergencies is all budgeted for, the service has said.
Ann Holland, who is vice chairman of the Fire Authority, is helping set the budget for next year.
She said: “This is a national strike and we do need to have contingencies in place.
“I think it is an arrangement that works quite well.”