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Dublin firefighters ‘pushed to exhaustion’ by staff shortages as protest planned

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Dublin Fire Brigade members tackle a blaze at a recycling plant in the city earlier this year

Dublin Fire Brigade members tackle a blaze at a recycling plant in the city earlier this year

Dublin Fire Brigade members tackle a blaze at a recycling plant in the city earlier this year

Dublin Fire Brigade’s firefighters and ambulance crew are at risk of “exhaustion”, it has been warned.

SIPTU members will hold a protest outside the Mansion House this evening as concerns over staff shortages within the emergency services are raised by city councillors.

A motion at today’s meeting of Dublin City Council, in the name of Lord Mayor Alison Gilliland and Councillor Daithí Doolan (SF), will call on the local authority to ramp up recruitment levels.

It notes, “with much concern”, that Dublin Fire Brigade is operating under agreed staffing levels and there is “an increasing over-reliance” on overtime to meet daily fire tender and ambulance operational needs.

It claims that on certain watches, there are insufficient staff available to allow for the full complement of fire tenders to be deployed.

While welcoming the fact that 36 new recruits currently in training are due to enter the Dublin Fire Brigade workforce in December, the councillors claim this may not be enough to add to staffing levels when 2021 retirements are taken into account.

They have called for two back-to-back recruitment classes to be scheduled to exhaust the current panel and for new recruits to be brought in for immediate training.

The motion proposes that three additional ambulances, currently operated by Dublin Fire Brigade and paid for by Dublin City Council, be instead funded by the HSE.

This, they believe, would result in Dublin Fire Brigade being able to fund and staff two additional ambulances to allow “a more appropriate response rate” to medical emergencies.

They also warn that members of Dublin Fire Brigade “have a propensity to suffer from burn-out” if repeatedly working overtime to cover staff shortages.

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They said every effort should be made by both sides to reach an agreement on overall operational manning levels and other outstanding issues.

Cllr Daithí Doolan told Independent.ie that Dublin Fire Brigade was facing “an unprecedented staffing crisis” and was operating with 965 firefighters instead of the recommended 1,000.

“This shortfall has created a life and death situation for the service and the public it serves,” he said. “Dublin Fire Brigade depends on overtime to keep the service going, leading to exhaustion and burn-out which can have deadly consequences.

“This summer saw fire trucks off the road and many fire stations not fully staffed. More recently, on September 28, six fire trucks were off the road, while another nine were not fully staffed.

“This is totally unacceptable and puts lives at risk, particularly as we face into Halloween, which is traditionally the busiest time of the year for emergency services.”

Brendan O’Brien of SIPTU confirmed there would be a small number of Dublin Fire Brigade members outside this evening’s council meeting at the Mansion House.

“We’re calling for recruitment to be accelerated to address the ongoing staffing shortages, where we have seen occasions where up to 20pc of the minimum manning has not been there, resulting in appliances being taken out of service,” he said.

“We want action on behalf of management to follow tonight’s motion, in particular the acceleration of the recruitment process. We need a roadmap to overtake the problem and for timeframes to be put around that.”

Dublin City Council declined to comment on the planned protest.

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