MORE than 2,800 firefighters are set to ballot for industrial action over Government cutbacks to the number of staff sent to tackle fires.
SIPTU said proposals to be launched by Environment Minister Phil Hogan today will reduce the number of firefighters tackling blazes by one employee per station.
It said the proposals mean a station with one fire engine, like Finglas in Dublin, will see a reduction from one officer and five firefighters to one officer and four firefighters.
At stations with two engines, the number of staff sent to the scene of fires will drop from two officers and eight firefighters to two officers and seven firefighters.
A draft of a document to be launched today outlines the cuts.
However, the department said it did not plan to make any of its workforce of over 3,000 firefighters redundant.
It said Mr Hogan had consulted with SIPTU on the policy document, 'Keeping Communities Safe', but said "no stakeholder group can have a veto on policy formation".
"Should matters arise at the implementation stage which could affect the terms and or conditions of employment of fire service personnel these will, of course, be dealt with through appropriate established industrial relations channels," said a spokesman.
SIPTU member Bryan Murray said the proposals were a cause for concern.
"Our members are very concerned about the serious health and safety implications for themselves and the communities they serve if the so-called 'Keeping Communities Safe' document is implemented," he said.
Other proposals include reducing the number of fire authorities across the State from 37 to 21.
Thirteen of these will cover areas of large populations ranging from Louth with 122,000 people to Cork county, which has a population of almost 400,000.
There are 1,170 full-time firefighters and 2,063 retained members. Some 220 fire stations are located across the country, and it not clear if this number will be reduced.