Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

August 26, 2009 11:27 ET

Yorkshire Fire Strike Likely-Unless Threat of Mass Sackings Withdrawn

BARNSLEY, YORKSHIRE, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - Aug. 26, 2009) - South Yorkshire firefighters are to ballot on strike action unless their employer withdraws a threat to sack them next New Year's Day for refusing to accept unilateral changes to their contracts. The mass dismissals by the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority are unprecedented in the UK fire service.

The Fire Brigades Union says a vote for strike action could mean a series of stoppages beginning in early October.

FBU members are already operating an overtime ban in the dispute over management efforts to force members to work 12-hour day shifts, rather than the current nine-hour duties. The firefighters say the change in working hours, which the South Yorkshire Fire Authority threatens to impose by sacking 744 firefighters to break their employment contracts, would damage family life and make it impossible for many to arrange childcare provision.

Firefighters in South Yorkshire have been considering future strategy at mass meetings this week, addressed by FBU general secretary Matt Wrack and local officials. FBU consultation meetings are continuing over the next few weeks.

"The employer's threat to sack firefighters in order to impose changes to working duties without negotiation is the tip of the iceberg," said Fire Brigades Union regional secretary for Yorkshire and Humberside Ian Murray. "Our members know that if management can do this over shift changes, then it can do the same thing whenever it wants changes. So our employment contracts, and our negotiated conditions, become worthless.

"Firefighters are happy and willing to continue working our agreed contracts so as to provide the best possible service to the people of South Yorkshire. But we cannot accept having our agreed contracts of employment ripped up. This is about Chief Fire Officer Mark Smitherman thinking he can change conditions of service by threatening us with the sack.

"Even at this late stage, we believe this dispute is entirely avoidable. We appeal to the Fire Authority to instruct its managers to engage in genuine negotiations - just as happens in every other fire service in the UK. The last thing firefighters want is to take industrial action but we simply cannot accept mass sackings as a way of forcing through changes to our contracts."

Contact Information

  • Regional and local media contacts
    Fire Brigades Union
    Ian Murray
    07967 103345
    Fire Brigades Union
    Jeremy Pagan
    07977 931086