Firefighters to vote on strike action
Union says demands for €9m cuts in capital put lives at risk
AROUND 1,400 fire and ambulance staff around the country are threatening to go on strike.
It would be the first strike action by public sector workers since the Croke Park deal was signed in March of last year.
A ballot by the executive board of the Irish Fire & Emergency Services Association (IFESA) will be put to members next week after demands by Dublin City Council for around €9m in cuts to Dublin Fire Brigade.
The union, which will officially announce the move today, said its hand had been forced, claiming the lives of staff and the public are being placed at risk.
Members, who include full and part-time firefighters around the country, will be asked to vote on action up to and including a nationwide general strike.
Financial and other support has been offered by a number of international firefighters' associations if it is required.
Although the IFESA is tied into the Croke Park agreement through its union partnership with the Psychiatric Nurses Association, it maintains that Dublin City Council was the first to break terms.
The Croke Park deal forbids industrial action on the condition that there are no more public service pay cuts until 2014.
However, IFESA chairman John Kidd said that the lives of its members were being put at risk because of reductions in services -- specifically the amount of units that can respond to a fire -- and that this supercedes the deal.
A ballot will be taken on September 2.
Mr Kidd said that cuts of around €3.75m were agreed in the last month.
But now there is a request to reduce services to the tune of a further €5m, bringing the total cuts to almost €9m.
This includes attempts to claw back three days 'compensatory leave' granted to firefighters annually as they often have to work past their scheduled shift time.
"Croke Park is supposed to be taking into account that no lives will be put at risk; every day, 24/7, frontline staff are putting their lives at risk," said Mr Kidd, who added that strike action was a last resort.
"They are either going to take vehicles off the road or personnel. We are asking people to support their local fire and emergency services.
"We are hearing that they are going to reduce cover in the city and that means reducing (fire) pumps."
The IFESA claims to represent some 529 of Dublin Fire Brigade's firefighters and paramedics while SIPTU, which has also expressed concerns over budget cuts, claims 406.
Impact also represents staff.
Mr Kidd has now called for the establishment of a national fire and emergency service body, controlled centrally instead of by individual local authorities.
This could lead to millions of euro in savings, he maintained.
In response to proposed cuts, Dublin City Council said it was "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".