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File photo Photocall Ireland

Firefighters head to Labour Court as one union ballots on possible industrial action

Firefighters and paramedics in the capital are unhappy with proposed cuts to overtime, training and annual leave by Dublin Fire Brigade.

TWO UNIONS REPRESENTING Dublin’s firefighters and paramedics are heading to the Labour Court today over cuts to overtime, training and annual leave.

Meanwhile, another union which says it represents the majority of those firefighters and paramedics will meet today to vote on possible industrial action.

SIPTU and IMPACT are in dispute with Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) over proposed cuts to overtime, training and annual leave for its members which they say contravenes the Croke Park Agreement (CPA). DFB says it must operate within allocated budgets.

Meanwhile, the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA), which claims to represent 530 of the capital’s 700 or so firefighters and paramedics, is also in dispute with DFB and will hold an extraordinary general meeting (EGM) which will ballot members on a motion of up to and including industrial action.

Chairman of IFESA, John Kidd told today that his members feel they have “no choice” in the matter because of the actions of DFB.

He said members felt they were being backed into a corner and that  ”lives are being put at risk,” because of the cuts.

The dispute centres on DFB’s proposal to cut all overtime, close its training centre and defer allocated leave for staff in order to meet a budget shortfall of €1.7 million for this year.

Negotiating rights

All unions believe that this contravenes specific cost-cutting measures, amounting to over €3.5 million, which were agreed to earlier this under the CPA.

SIPTU and IMPACT, who hold official negotiating rights with DFB and also claim to represent most firefighters and paramedics in the capital, have already failed to agree a resolution to the dispute in meetings and at the Labour Relations Commission earlier this week.

A hearing at the Labour Court will take place this morning at 10am.

IFESA will holds its EGM at midday and understands that members are leaning towards a vote in favour of industrial action.

However, what form such action would take and how official it would be is unclear given that IFESA does not hold official negotiating rights with DFB, unlike SIPTU and IMPACT.

Strike action would be in contravention of Croke Park but IFESA argues that DFB is breaking CPA already by proposing further cuts.

IFESA has argued most strongly against the cuts, arguing that lives are being put at risk by implementing them on an already over-stretched emergency service.

SIPTU has indicated that there are shortages of around 55 people in Dublin Fire Brigade however understands that the figure is much higher and 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.

In response to this, DFB has said: “There are currently a number of vacancies but the agreed staff complement has not been reduced.”

Read: Overtime may be axed in €1.7m Dublin Fire Brigade budget shortfall>

Read: Dublin firefighters may vote in favour of industrial action>