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SOME eighty firemen from Palma's fire-fighting forces attempted to take centre stage at a City Council meeting yesterday.
Angry fire service members demanded that the mayor, Catalina Cirer force the resignation of the Official Fire Service Chief, Guillem García, for his failure to support “the rank and file” in Palma. Another bone of contention was the disruptive change in shift patterns which workers had been obliged to accept. Members viewed the move as an “excuse” for a grass roots shake-up of the force. Under the slogan “Firemen at the end of their tether” chiselled on a plaque of wood, the firemen of Palma assailed their official Chief with a barrage of complaints. He is accused primarily of “neglecting the workers” and of “favouritism”. Llorenç Crespí, a STEI-i Union member, said the Chief has allegedly deprived firemen of their pay when they were off sick and changed some shifts “in favour of some but not of others”. Added to the storm of criticism of García for his purported poor handling of the economic management of the Fire service, the protesting group of firemen condemned their official Chief for turning a “deaf ear” to employee response to the imposed shift changes. “Management have changed around 40 percent of the shift rota. They have done it with the excuse of covering for members who are off sick or for whatever post the force happens to be short of” suggested Crespí. Firemen's protests were joined yesterday outside the City Council offices by workers from the Municipal bus company EMT who are currently involved in acrimonious pay increase talks with the Council's Transport department. The two demonstrations coincided for a while in the plaza de Cort where the Firemen acted out a street theatre scenario, providing a backdrop of medieval imagery to their staged protest with the use of carnival masks, ridiculing Guillem García. Spokesmen for the firemen's union, Guillermo Salas, declared that, in spite of the fact that this municipal unit is the worst paid in all Spain, the service is being “rationalised” for economic reasons. Salas repeated the demand for Guillem García to stand down, alluding to the fire chief's disgraceful off-hand treatment of dedicated fire officers.
Salas indicated that the councillors responsible are “playing with fire” and the protest movement will continue until the firemen receive satisfaction.