SIPTU has confirmed this week that members of the Retained Fire Service are to ballot for industrial action following a directive issued by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government recently under its ‘Keeping Communities Safe’ (KCS) policy. The document makes recommendations about crew levels of retained fire-fighters which, according to SIPTU will pose a threat to public health and safety.
Brendan O’Brien, SIPTU Sector Organiser said he is extremely concerned about the recommendations. “We are extremely concerned that the department is seeking to push through reductions in fire-fighter crewing levels which could jeopardise the health and safety of the public who rely on this critical emergency service, as well as of fire-fighters themselves. The KCS Good Practice Note is effectively a licence for local authorities to break national agreements which set out the minimum crewing levels for fire-fighters, and is unacceptable under any circumstances”.
O’Brien added “The department has repeatedly failed to provide any assurance that the proposed reductions in crewing levels will not threaten the safety of the public or fire fighters, despite numerous requests by SIPTU. We have now reached a point where there is no option but to ballot our members in the Retained Fire Services for industrial/strike action”.
Almost two-thirds of the country’s fire-fighters stationed in most principal and small towns are retained fire-fighters, and employed and trained by the Local Authority but are not full time, whereas many City fire fighters are. SIPTU which represents over 1,700 of Ireland’s fire-fighters says a meeting is also planned with full time fire fighters for this week to discuss the issue while Mr. O’Brien has also called on Minister Alan Kelly to intervene and ensure his department does not proceed to implement these measures.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Minister Kelly’s department said the ‘Keeping Communities Safe’ document aligns Ireland with international trends in protecting people from the dangers of fire and reducing fire losses and confirmed that a good practice note was issued to fire authorities on managing the attendance of retained crews in early January. “This followed a period of extended consultation which included discussions and consideration of points raised by SIPTU,” they said. “This Good Practice Note (GPN) is not a directive and is intended to inform local authority management in their statutory functions of providing consistent, effective and safe fire services.”
Pic: Pat Flynn