East Sussex fire chief Des Prichard has been criticised for tweeting jokey pictures of a five-a-side football game while his firefighters were on strike.
Mr Prichard posted two pictures of the team just past midnight on Sunday, one poking fun at players’ Liverpool shirts and the other joking that they were biting each other in an apparent reference to Luis Suarez.
Anyone got any gum shields; the lot in the front row kept biting each other!!! pic.twitter.com/PMpXHiZ2YJ
— Des Prichard (@Des_Prichard) July 19, 2014
This was while members of the East Sussex Fire Brigades Union (FBU) were striking over pay and pensions.
Simon Herbert, Chair of East Sussex FBU said: “His comments on a public forum during strike action were insensitive and totally inappropriate.
“This is a serious issue – we are fighting for our futures and that of our families. We are being asked to pay up to 14.2% of our pay into our pension scheme and work until we are 60, but if we lose fitness before that age, then we also lose our pensions.
“Des Prichard may think that’s a laughing matter, but firefighters don’t.”
Nancy Platts, Labour candidate for Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven said “I am disappointed that CFO Prichard saw fit to post such comments and pictures on Twitter in the full knowledge that they would be seen by firefighters.
“This is already a tense situation and all energies should be going into resolving the dispute. I hope that this was a lapse in judgement rather than designed to goad striking firefighters and that he will apologise.”
A spokeswoman for the fire service said it had worked hard to maintain good relations with the union since the start of the strikes in September last year.
She added: “This industrial dispute is between the FBU and the Government over pensions. East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has no power to resolve this but must provide emergency cover throughout the strikes. Crews need to maintain an appropriate level of fitness for operational readiness.
“Following recent tweets by the Chief Fire Officer, we would like to make it clear that there was no intention to upset staff. The intention is always to maintain positive working relationships.”
She added: “We recognise that FBU members have remained on the scene of incidents which were ongoing when industrial action begins. For example, crews remained at the scene of a house fire sparked by lightning in Uckfield on Friday to assist with securing the property and at the scene of a road traffic collision to ensure public safety.”