SIPTU FIREFIGHTERS ARE set to commence a national ballot for industrial action if the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government attempts to implement changes to working practices that would “endanger fire fighters and the communities they serve”.
The department has compiled a document entitled ‘Keeping Communities Safe’ which proposes to cut the numbers of firefighters manning a fire appliance by 20 per cent.
Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Fire Fighter National Committee member, Bryan Murray, said the proposals will “be anything but keeping the community safe” and that it will “jeapordise the lives of firefighters and members of the public”. He said:
In the case of an ordinary house fire you would expect around 9 fire firefighter to deal with it safely. The commander is required by law to carry out a risk assessment before telling fire fighters to move to an offensive position and if they have to call for backup because of the cuts you’ll have fire fighters sitting on the garden wall waiting for the backup to arrive before they can attend.
He said the union has sought copies of a risk assessment that guarantees that a safe service can still be provided. “Firefighters are entitled to a safe system of work, not just at the station but as the scene as well and we have been refused this information,” he said.
“We also requested the names of the committee members and the department refused to reveal this information as well.”
Murray said that there is legislation in place that demands the employer to provide a safe system of work and the department is failing to tell the public that “firefighters at the scene may have to stand at the garden gate and it will claim lives”.
“As an employer the department has a responsibility and they’re not willing to guarantee the life of the firefighter,” he said. “In fact they’re being quite cavalier about the matter and I think firefighters are being left with no option but to ballot on this issue which is essentially a health and safety matter.”
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