Fire strikes go ahead as bosses reject mediation
SOUTH Yorkshire faces its first firefighters strike in six years, after last-ditch talks between unions and fire chiefs broke down this week.
The long-threatened strike by South Yorkshire firefighters is going ahead after talks over enforced new shift patterns failed.
The Fire Brigades Union said two 24-hour strikes will take place from 6pm on October 19 and on October 23.
But bosses have pledged that emergency fire cover during the strike will be "significantly better" than that provided by the military and Green Goddesses in 2002-03.
Talks with the county's fire authority failed to resolve the dispute as the FBU accused Yorkshire fire bosses of trampling on workers rights.
Ian Murray, FBU regional secretary told the Times: "The fire authority is hell-bent on a strategy of confrontation.
"They have refused to withdraw the redundancy notice involving 744 firefighters and have turned down our request for national mediation.
"We asked them to seek the assistance of national employers and union to try and broker an agreement.
"This is the usual avenue of mediation when agreement is not reached at local level, but they have turned this down as well.
"South Yorkshire fire crews are very disappointed. We have been very reluctant to set strike dates, in the hope the fire authority will see some sense."
Firefighters want to keep their current pattern of nine-hour day shifts and 15-hour night shifts.
During talks at South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service's headquarters in Sheffield, the FBU proposed 10-hour shifts, but the authority said it was committed to 12-hour shifts.
The fire service said adding three hours to the day shift from the less productive night shift would result in improved services and more time to train firefighters.
Firefighters have opposed the move because they claim it will affect their family life, including matters such as childcare arrangements.
Firefighters turned down a 1,500 cash incentive offered to encourage them to accept the deal.
In September, South Yorkshire fire crews voted five-to-one to strike, claiming they received a faxed threat from managers to sack 744 firefighters in a bid to force through new contracts requiring 12-hour day shifts from January 1 next year.
Managers maintain they have tried to assure the union there will be no pay cuts and the same number of hours will worked each month. They say the changes will add an extra 4 million a year in services. Chief fire officer in South Yorkshire, Mark Smitherman, said SYFR have had contingency plans in place, which have been further developed over the past six months. He said: "These plans ensure that SYFR will continue to provide an excellent emergency response with the service using its own staff and equipment, for the duration of the Fire Brigades Union's (FBU) strike action.
Mr Smitherman added: "In the last strike, South Yorkshire had to rely on eight Green Goddesses staffed by military personnel. Throughout any current FBU action, we will comfortably exceed that number, using our own highly-trained and experienced operational staff. We will also be using our own vehicles and equipment.
"We would urge people only to dial 999 if they are in a genuine emergency situation. However, if you do need the fire service, please do not hesitate to call us out.
"We will have fully trained and highly experienced firefighting staff available to respond to you quickly and professionally."
However he advised people can help to keep themselves safe by paying closer attention to the following SYFR advice to help stop fires and reduce the need for the Fire Service to be called out:
Make sure your house has a working smoke alarm fitted, checked weekly
Make sure you have an evacuation plan in case of fire
Take care when cooking – never leave it unattended
Don't use a chip pan
Don't smoke in bed
Don't leave lighting materials, such as matches, where children can find them
Don't overload electrical sockets
Take care if using candles
Only put wheelie bins out on the morning of a collection
Call 999 in the event of a genuine emergency – get out of danger, and stay out.
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Weather for South Yorkshire
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
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Wind direction: North east
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