A DISPUTE by Essex firefighters which has been running for nearly two years has saved the service more than £2million.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union are refusing to work overtime or to “act up” – filling in when more senior officers are off.

Fire chief David Johnson says the dispute is irrelevant as the changes which triggered it have have been successfully introduced.

He warns overtime and acting up payments could now be lost for good in view of the savings that have been made.

He said: “The dispute is still running, despite the fact the changes it is over have been in place since October 2, 2009.

“The action prevents our crews from earning extra income through overtime or by taking on temporary promotions.

“During the course of this industrial action, the service has saved £2.2million, with negligible impact on our frontline service.

“With such a significant saving to our running costs and the current challenging financial climate, we have to expect challenge from Essex Fire Authority on whether these practices should be reinstated once the action has come to an end.”

The dispute, about the level of cover required for aerial ladders and other specialist equipment, started in August 2009.

It was temporarily suspended a year ago when an agreement had been reached in principal.

But the industrial action was resumed last September when the union claimed management had added a clause to the agreement document. The union did not respond to requests for a comment.