Retained firefighters in Donegal are preparing for a nationwide campaign of industrial action on 6th June.
Staff are campaigning for improvements in pay, conditions, and a decent work/life balance with agreed time off.
SIPTU members say the dispute is resulting from the failure of management to adequately address a worsening recruitment and retention crisis in the service. Almost 2000 Retained Fire Service members are organised in SIPTU across 200 fire stations nationally.
The industrial action will begin with non-cooperation with training, drills and radio calls through the emergency centres being replaced by the use of mobile calls to fire service management.
SIPTU Sector Organiser, Brendan O’Brien, said: “On 13th June a series of rolling work stoppages are scheduled to commence with the action set to escalate to an all-out strike on 20th June if the dispute has not been resolved.”
Donegal firefighters have called on their local county councillors for support. A letter has been issued to representatives asking them to call on the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Public Expenditure to provide the funding necessary to sustain and enhance the service now and for future generations.
Members warned that once strike action begins the community will no longer be safe.
They said: “At present the Retained Fire Service is struggling to maintain adequate numbers to allow for safe operations with crew numbers in decline in all counties. This in turn has led to even greater pressure being brought to bear on those fire-fighters still left in the service.
“Whole-time Retained Fire-fighters earn approx. €700 per month which equates to 99c per hour. For this they must adhere to the following draconian work rules; Be on-call 24/7 365 days per year; Always stay within 3 km of the station and to attend the station within five minutes of a call; Attend approx. 8 weeks of compulsory training in their 1st year to qualify as a Firefighter.
“There are numerous other restrictions associated with the profession but too many to include on this letter of request.”
SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Organiser, Karan O Loughlin, said: “Firefighters first commitment is to serving their communities and protecting those in danger. It is an extremely difficult decision for them to commit to such a campaign of industrial action but they are left with no alternative if they are to protect the service and public safety into the future.
“The SIPTU Negotiating Committee who attended talks with management on resolving the recruitment and retention crisis in the service, considered that proposals presented to it fell short of the minimum required to address the issue. The proposals also fall short of recommendations from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in relation to addressing structured pay in the service.”
She added: “This situation left the SIPTU National Retained Firefighters Committee, which met on Friday (19th May), with no alternative but to commence a campaign of industrial action following a ballot of SIPTU members in January which returned an overwhelming majority in favour of strike action.”