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Threat to Fireman in Union Row


Firefighters in a life-saving response team were physically threatened by union members, a tribunal heard. Officers from Merseyside were intimidated and blanked after going against Fire Brigades Union policy by joining the unit, where crews were trained to give basic first aid until paramedics arrived.

A tribunal in Liverpool was told yesterday that most of the 24- strong team, all members of the brigade’s Search and Rescue Team, were expelled from the FBU in March 2006.

They were said to have breached union policy by joining the scheme when it was set up in Croxte that the end of 2004.

Eleven are contesting the expulsion.

Expelled member Paul Lawless, 39, watch manager at Croxteth fire station, told the tribunal: “Prior to Christmas2006 an incident occurred in a Wetherspoon public house in Liverpool city centre.

“Threats of violence were made by firefighters who are FBU members towards the searchand rescue team.”

Mr Lawless said he had also lost friends over his decision to workalongside paramedics.

He said: “Relationships I have built up with colleagues over the years are very different now to the way they were.

“I have had to develop strategies to deal with the negative attitudes towards me including people ignoring or blanking me.”

After being thrown out of the FBU, the Search and Rescue Team members did not join in last year’s fire strike.

Mr Lawless received an anonymous letter which called firefighters not on strike “scabs” and referred to chief fire officer Tony McGuirk as “Tony McBerk”, the tribunal heard.

He also alleges Merseyside FBU secretary Les Skarratts used “scab” in a speech, and the union’s magazine contained a cartoon which used the slang term “sausage, chips and beans”.

Before his expulsion from the union in March 2006, Mr Lawless had been a member of the FBU for 14 years.

He said during his time as a union member he had attended union meetings, taken part in strike action andmanned picket lines.

Mr Lawless said the vast majority of firefightersweremembers of the FBUand part of the culture of the job was the “camaraderie” of being in the union.

But the firefighter said FBU rules were often enforced at the discretion of officials.

He said: “In the 80s itwas policy not to have a second job or part time employment. But that was never enforced.”

Mr Lawless said his role as a firefighter was to save and preserve endangered life and to treat casualties.’

He said: “I believe that rendering first aid to members of the public, who pay my salary through their taxes, is not unreasonable.”

The tribunal is expected to last five days.

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