INDUSTRIAL action by the country's firefighters has been averted after Environment Minister Alan Kelly pledged to ensure that proposed cuts to crew levels will not go ahead.
Members of trade union Siptu voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action last month over a proposal to reduce the number of firefighters tackling blazes.
The proposal is contained in the Government's 'Keeping Communities Safe' document which Siptu says poses threats to safety and employment.
But after holding talks with Mr Kelly, Siptu has agreed to park the plans for the strike pending further consultation.
Siptu represents more than 1,700 of the 2,000 firefighters employed by local authorities.
The union said a new process had been agreed which would deal with concerns over the policy.
"Siptu have considered the proposal and notified the minister that we are agreeable to his offer. The National Joint Fire Committees will meet shortly to begin preparations ahead of the commencement of the new process. We will keep members appraised as the situation progresses," said sector organiser Brendan O'Brien.
In a statement last night, Mr Kelly said discussions would begin between his officials and the Local Government Management Agency.
"I am acutely aware of the tough job carried out by firefighters and I was pleased to meet with their Siptu representatives to hear their concerns first-hand and to assure them that I will personally be involved in identifying a solution to this impasse," Mr Kelly said.
"I have asked officials in my department and the Local Government Management Agency to begin discussions as quickly as possible and in the meantime I have assured Siptu members that we will identify common ground so we can finalise this matter to the satisfaction of all involved."