Firefighters to ballot over ‘risky’ staff cuts

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue members during a strike in 2014
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue members during a strike in 2014
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Firefighters in South Yorkshire will be balloted for strike action over plans that could see the number of emergency control operators cut by a quarter.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) say the plans, which include changes to firefighters’ leave arrangements, have been put forward by South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (SYFRS) “without meaningful consultation or negotiation”. It comes less than a fortnight after South Yorkshire Fire Authority chairman Jim Andrews publicly apologised after “secretly” approving tens of thousands in overtime payments to chief fire officers.

Pete Smith, regional secretary of the FBU in Yorkshire, said the public would be put at “greater risk” if “invaluable” emergency control staff are cut.

He said: “Fire chiefs have lost the trust and respect of their staff through these savage cuts to fire control, leaving us with no option but to ballot for industrial action.

“The recent scandal of high ranking - and highly paid – chief fire officers choosing to accept tens of thousands of pounds in overtime payments shows the complete disconnect between senior managers and the people working on the frontline. “Fire chiefs must learn that South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is not a dictatorship but a professional and valued public service.”

The union said firefighters were forced into an industrial dispute last December following changes to the way staffing schedules and leave are assigned, as well as failures of the service to comply with nationally agreed industrial relations protocol.

SYFRS could not be reached for comment, but it previously said the number of calls taken by operators had “fallen significantly” in recent years.