FIREFIGHTERS AND PARAMEDICS may vote in favour of industrial action next week, TheJournal.ie understands. It is not clear whether this would involve out-and-out strike action.
It follows proposals by management at Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB), which operates both the fire and paramedic service, in Dublin to cut overtime. TheJournal.ie revealed last week that DFB is also temporarily closing its training centre and deferring allocated leave for staff in order to meet a budget shortfall of €1.7 million.
The Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) will hold an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on 2 September in which members will be balloted on possible industrial action.
TheJournal.ie understands that members of IFESA, which represents full and part-time firefighters around the country, are leaning towards a vote in favour of industrial action next week.
What form such action would take and how it would affect the provision of emergency services would not be clear until after a vote is taken but members will be balloted on a possible nationwide general strike.
Lives at risk
Sources have indicated to TheJournal.ie that any industrial action taken would be likely to happen in the first week of October.
However, there are questions over whether industrial action voted through at that meeting would have any official status as IFESA does not have negotiating rights for DFB personnel unlike the other trade unions representing firefighters and paramedics, SIPTU and IMPACT.
IFESA, which claims to represent around 530 out of around 700 of Dublin Fire Brigade’s firefighters and paramedics , says that lives are being put at risk by cuts being proposed by DFB.
IFESA chairman John Kidd said:
With the cuts being proposed we’re worried about the provision of services. When you take pumps (fire engines) off the road, the delivery of service is compromised.
Kidd says there are inefficiencies in DFB which need to be tackled and is calling for a national fire and ambulance service which would centralise services instead of them being controlled by local authorities.
IFESA, SIPTU and IMPACT say this contravenes specific cost cutting measures made under the Croke Park Agreement (CPA) worth €3.75 million and which were agreed on earlier this year.
SIPTU, which itself claims to represent 406 firefighters and paramedics in Dublin, is due to meet with officials from Dublin Fire Brigade tomorrow in bid to resolve their disagreements.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie SIPTU representative Owen Reidy said that he hopes to resolve the dispute at the meeting but said if this can’t happen, then the matter will be taken to the CPA National Implementation Body charged with resolving disputes.
“We’ve done an agreement and we’ve made our position clear. We want to resolve the matter,” Reidy said adding that in this case DFB was in clear breach of measures agreed upon.
If the dispute cannot be solved through the various mediation bodies, he warned of “sanctions and possible consequences.”
In a related development, TheJournal.ie also understands that the DFB training centre at the O’Brien Institute on the Malahide Road in Dublin has been closed for the past two weeks despite DFB saying in a letter that it would not close the centre until 29 August.
It is also understood that there could be nearly 150 vacancies across Dublin Fire Brigade with the recruitment moratorium affecting the numbers of station officers, sub officers, district officers and firefighters working in the capital.
In a statement issued to TheJournal.ie this afternoon, Dublin Fire Brigade said:
Dublin Fire Brigade in common with all other public services has to operate within allocated budgets and is currently discussing a range of measures with staff and trade unions to ensure to the best of our ability that this happens, without impacting on the services being delivered.
There are currently a number of vacancies but the agreed staff complement has not been reduced.