Strike action by retained firefighters to resume next week

Retained firefighters will resume their strike action next Wednesday after rejecting Labour Court proposals aimed at settling their dispute over pay and staffing levels by a margin of more than four to one.

Siptu had recommended rejection of the recommendations, which included large percentage increases to the annual retainers paid to the roughly 2,000 workers, increased staffing and rostering for more time off.

Darragh O’Brien, Minister for Housing and Local Government, had recommended acceptance, suggesting the agreement would be implemented ahead of the forthcoming talks on a new national public sector pay deal and would leave the firefighters significantly better-off at the outset of those talks.

The union’s members, however, ultimately voted against the proposals by a margin of 82 per cent to 18 per cent.

Divisional organiser Karan O Loughlin said although the headline figures in the proposal were large the firefighters were starting from such a poor position that the deal did not deliver enough to represent a “first step to rebuild the retained fire service”.

“Stations all over the country are shortstaffed with dangerously low levels of crewing on call-out. The increases in the modest retainer given to these essential workers may look like something on a percentage basis but, in reality, they are a high percentage of a small amount and will do nothing to attract the numbers of firefighters that are required to address the issues.

“The proposals to address the retention problem are also inadequate as people are retiring on a mandatory basis or just leaving because the job is traumatic and stressful and not worth it because of the high levels of commitment and availability that are required. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that most of the income earned is precarious and not guaranteed.”

This was a reference to the fact that much of the firefighters’ income is based on call-outs, the number of which has been static in recent years and in decline over the longer term.

Ms O Loughlin said the industrial action undertaken in recent weeks had been suspended to allow for the Labour Court talks and then for its recommendations to be considered but that the action would now resume at about 200 stations across the country next Wednesday.

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