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EDITIONS
 Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 13:05 GMT
Firefighters out in the cold
Firefighters
Firefighters are due to strike again on Saturday
Hereford firefighter Nigel Stroud says morale among his comrades remains strong as they enter the second day of the latest 48 hour strike. Here in his diary he tells of another bitter but determined day out on the picket line.

Tuesday 28th March 2003.

The time of "8.59" came out over the tannoy system, calling an end to the night shift for Red Watch, and what should have been the start of Green Watch's second day shift.

Instead it heralded the start of another strike.

This time for 48 hrs. The crews of Red watch retrieved their fire kit from the appliances, offering grim smiles of acknowledgement and the usual banter, though a little subdued, as we filed through to the front of the appliance room and out onto the station forecourt.

At this time, the watch commander would normally detail the duties for the day. This morning however, everybody straightaway got stuck into the task of setting up the all too familiar picket line campsite, under the watchful gaze of a curious traffic queue.

Strong comradeship

By 1000GMT, the caravan was in place adorned with its stickers and banners, this time without its awning.

A few of the guys, after several attempts to best it against a strong and bitterly cold gusting wind, gave up in disgust and settled for a cup of tea instead.

The brazier was lit and well on its way to consuming the supply of timber being stacked behind the caravan.

The mood of most people was now regaining its more positive and jovial state.

I'm sure many of them feel as I do and loathe the initial stage of walking out of the doors, including the hours and days of anticipation of such an event.

The average estimate of loss of earnings so far is between 700 -800 per firefighter.

Nigel stroud
But with the task underway, the humour of our comradeship usually makes light of the situation.

1100 GMT and the most welcome bacon butties appeared as if from nowhere!

The hoot of horns and waving of passers-by still encourage us, but are starting to tell on aching arm muscles from the constant waving back.

The hours slip by, bringing generous deliveries of wood, and the only negative response from a car passenger - a two-fingered salute.

Prescott threat

Then reports started to come in from various sources.

Good old 'two Jags Prescott' is getting tougher, apparently he's going to use a repealed 60-year-old piece of legislation to flatten us. How ironic from someone of his background and desires for modernisation!

By 1500GMT the moods of myself and others were starting to darken. We were quietly contemplating on how many of John Prescott's teeth a size nine fireboot could account for!

John Prescott
John Prescott: Tough tactics
Then we had a visit from the Brigades Deputy CFO.

It was good of him to come and chat with us, although he couldn't shed much more light on the political front.

He did manage to bleaken our mood yet further as we talked about the loss of our station emergency tender this coming June, with its subsequent loss of two fire-fighter posts per watch.

This would result in an enforced transfer of eight fire-fighters to other stations, the nearest station being over an hours drive from Hereford.

Needless to say, not one person is enamoured with that prospect.

Public support

Between then and 1730GMT, when members of Red Watch night shift started to come in ready for their stint of picket duty, little happened.

A few members of the public came up to us to show support or ask directions.

From those conversations it's amazing to find out how many people do not realise that while we are striking, we are not getting paid.

The average estimate of loss of earnings so far is between 700 -800 per firefighter.

That just goes to show our commitment to retaining a top class of service, and prevent these potentially devastating "cutbacks/modernisation".

Still, we're up against a very ruthless machine of spin, and few of us now see success on that horizon.

1800 GMT. Red Watch have taken over the comfy warm seats beside the brazier, and we can go home. Unfortunately, we have tomorrow night of the same to contemplate.

Oh, I'm so looking forward to it - NOT !


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