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

Concerns raised over capacity of capital’s fire brigade to cope with proposed cuts to training, overtime and annual leave.

Dublin Fire Brigade officers tackle a blaze (File photo)
Dublin Fire Brigade officers tackle a blaze (File photo)
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

CONCERNS HAVE BEEN raised about a shortage of firemen operating in the capital with Dublin Fire Brigade proposing to cut overtime, temporarily close its training centre and defer allocated leave for staff in order to meet a budget shortfall.

In correspondence seen by TheJournal.ie Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) has outlined to the trade union SIPTU that it is facing “a serious overrun” in its budget for this year and proposes to implement a number of changes within the next month.

A letter dated 5 August from DFB’s executive manager to SIPTU, the fire brigade says that if overtime for staff continues at its current level the allocated budget for 2011 would be exceeded “by approximately €1.7 million”.

The letter states that action is needed immediately in order to address the problem. An extract from the letter reads:

It is estimated that if overtime is allowed continue at its current levels, we would exceed our allocated budget by approximately €1.7 million. Given the current financial situation neither Dublin City Council or the adjoining Dublin Authorities will be in a position to allocate additional funding and it is therefore necessary to take corrective action immediately to address this situation.

In order to address the problem, DFB is proposing to cut overtime from mid-September and to cease training at its training centre at the O’Brien Institute on Malahide Road from 29 August for a period of three months, conducting all training at fire stations instead.

It is also proposes that one day and one night of allocated leave which is due to all staff between September and December be deferred.

Such measures have raised concerns amongst DFB staff.

One source within the organisation told TheJournal.ie that it is feared that crews will not have “sufficient competency” as a result of not being able to use the training centre and warned that the fire brigade is already stretched because of a recruitment freeze.

In a letter dated 8 August, SIPTU says that the proposals to cease training for three months and the compromise in leave entitlement are not acceptable and criticises it as a  ”failure of management”. Its letter to the DFB’s executive manager Gerry Geraghty reads:

You will remember that SIPTU has been advocating for some time that in order to reduce the overtime budget that recruitment must take place. At the last protocol meeting, (where this issue has been on the agenda for a number of meetings) the figure concerning the number of vacancies was 55. It is not acceptable as a result of a failure of management to adhere to budget allocations under varying headings that you propose to cease training for a period of 3 months, and that you propose to not facilitate the full allocation of leave.

The letter adds  that existing arrangements under the Croke Park Agreement must be adhered to and warned any changes to such agreements would have the “appropriate consequences”.

Whilst SIPTU highlights 55 vacancies TheJournal.ie understands 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.

Dublin Fire Brigade, which has around 900 staff, would neither confirm nor deny this figure when it was put to them. It did not directly respond to a number of questions put to it about this issue but said in a statement to TheJournal.ie:

Dublin Fire Brigade in common with all other public services has to operate within allocated budgets and we will be 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.

In its letter to SIPTU, Dublin Fire Brigade further outlines that there will be more cuts to funding in 2012 and warns that: “This presents a serious challenge in trying to maintain services.”

SIPTU was not able to comment on the matter when contacted this afternoon.

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Hugh O'Connell

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