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Firefighters warn of strike vote over cuts

FIREFIGHTERS are to vote on strike action if the Government tries to reduce the number of staff sent to fight fires.

THE SIPTU trade union said proposals to be launched today by Environment Minister Phil Hogan will cut the number of firefighters tackling blazes by one employee per station.

Firefighter national committee member Bryan Murray said the document, Keeping Communities Safe, "would be anything but keeping communities safe" and would "jeopardise the lives of firefighters and members of the public".

The SIPTU move to ballot came as it emerged rank-and-file gardai, also members of the 24/7 Frontline Services Alliance of frontline responders, said they would lose almost €500 a month if they accept the Government's demand for further cuts.

SIPTU said the department proposals mean a station with one fire engine, such as Finglas in Dublin, would see a reduction from one officer and five firefighters to one officer and four firefighters.

Protest

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.

The department said it did not plan to make any of its workforce of over 3,000 firefighters redundant.

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. There are some 220 fire stations across the country, but it is not clear if this number will be reduced.

Meanwhile, gardai have warned they will embark on a protest campaign as the extent of the cuts being sought were revealed.

Some of the more militant branches of the Garda Representative Association warned they would push for "blue flu"- type action in which members fail to turn up for work by reporting sick.

mlavery@herald.ie


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