Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

August 24, 2009 01:00 ET

Yorkshire Firefighters Meet to Oppose Mass Sackings

SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND--(Marketwire - Aug. 24, 2009) -

EMBARGO: FOR PUBLICATION MONDAY August 24

Firefighters from across South Yorkshire are attending mass meetings this week to signal their opposition to threats by their Fire Authority to sack them.

Fire Brigades Union General Secretary Matt Wrack will address the meetings of angry firefighters in Rotherham and Doncaster (tomorrow, Tuesday August 25) and Barnsley (Wednesday August 26).

The Fire Authority is threatening to sack 744 firefighters next New Year's Day in order to impose unilateral changes to their contracts of employment. One of these changes is that the employer wants to force firefighters to work longer day shifts, up from the current nine hours, despite firefighters explaining that this could damage their family life and cause problems with childcare.

Management is ignoring the fact that the imposed changes would mean firefighters with children being forced to go on duty at 8 o'clock in the morning and finish at 8 o'clock at night. This could mean children having to spend up to 13 hours daily in childcare, even if places were available. This problem would be increased for firefighters on public holidays and during school holidays, and at weekends, when there is little formal childcare available.

"South Yorkshire Fire Authority is adopting the worst sort of bully-boy tactics rather than seeking to resolve the dispute in a reasonable way," said Fire Brigades Union Regional Secretary for Yorkshire and Humberside Ian Murray. "It is showing a callous indifference to dedicated firefighters and their families by seeking to impose a new shift pattern which could seriously disrupt childcare and other family arrangements for the firefighters of South Yorkshire. We have female members and single parents who would find this imposed change impossible to deal with."

Similar changes were introduced through negotiation in West Yorkshire in January 2008 and as part of a six-month review the Fire Authority recommended 'the finish time to the day shift should be brought back to 1800 hrs to both assist in the conduct of CFS work in the evening and provide a more family friendly balance to the working day'.

Those fire crews in South Yorkshire who work shifts do so in 48-hour blocks of two nine-hour day shifts (9am to 6pm) followed by two 15 hour night shifts (6pm to 9am). Firefighters in South Yorkshire voted three to one in favour of industrial action short of a strike to oppose the changes.

Last month in a letter to the Fire Brigades Union Rosie Winterton, Minister for Yorkshire and The Humber, acknowledged the anxieties caused to firefighters and their families in South Yorkshire by the threat from their fire authority to sack them.

Ian Murray added 'This is the tip of the iceberg; if South Yorkshire Fire Authority is allowed to get away with this action it opens the door for them to threaten to sack our members every time they want to make any changes. South Yorkshire Fire Service advertise to the public on their website that 'It aims to create a working environment that is safe and secure and where employees can feel valued for being individual.' - Is this how you make people feel valued by sacking them instead of negotiating with them?'

Firefighters are gearing themselves up to take action should management ignore their claims for meaningful negotiations on this issue.

Contact Information

  • Regional and local media contacts:
    Ian Murray
    07967 103345
    or
    Jeremy Pagan
    07977 931086