Fire Brigades Union

Fire Brigades Union

July 19, 2009 07:00 ET

Minister Acknowledges Firefighter Anxieties Over South Yorkshire Mass Sacking Plan

SHEFFIELD, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - July 19, 2009) -

Minister for Yorkshire and the Humber Rosie Winterton has acknowledged the anxieties caused to firefighters and their families in South Yorkshire by the threat from their fire authority to sack them.

In a letter to the Fire Brigades Union the minister says she hopes an agreement can be reached to resolve the dispute, in which the authority is threatening to sack 744 firefighters next New Year's Day if they don't accept unilateral changes to their contracts of employment.

"The 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 Brigade 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 would seriously disrupt childcare and other family arrangements for the firefighters of South Yorkshire."

The underlying dispute is about shift changes sought by the fire authority which wants firefighters to work four consecutive shifts of 12 hours. At every stage it has sought to impose changes rather than negotiate.

Longer day shifts of 12 hours, up from the current 9 hours, would also create changes to start and finish times, damaging family life and causing problems with childcare.

If the changes were imposed, firefighters with children would be forced to start at 8.00 in the morning and finish at 8.00 at night. This could mean children having to spend as many as 13 hours daily in childcare, if places are available.

Under the proposals, existing childcare arrangements would be disrupted and new arrangements would have to be found. Before and after-school clubs can't fill the gap, and there is little formal childcare available at weekends, public holidays or school holidays when firefighters are working as normal.

When similar changes were introduced in West Yorkshire it resulted in a worse service to the public. The fire authority had to re-negotiate its original plans to unravel the changes introduced.

Those fire crews who work shifts do so in 48 hour blocks of two 9 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 in opposition to the changes.

Contact Information

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