Firefighters reject plans to cut services

Fri, Feb 8, 2013, 00:00

Firefighters have rejected plans to reduce the number of services around the country, and are to ballot for action up to and including strike.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan yesterday launched a Keeping Community Safe policy document aimed at “streamlining” the system.

This would cut the number of fire services from 30 to 21, and lead to the closure of an unspecified number of stations. However, it would not entail job losses.

Exact specifications of the plan will depend on risk-management assessments by individual local authorities. The document has rejected calls for a national service in favour of a restructured local system.

Alert system

The department also announced a new centrally-based emergency alert system which would categorise calls into three levels of seriousness with appropriate responses.

However, both Siptu and the Irish Fire and Emergency Services Association (IFESA) , a breakaway representative body, have indicated that action would be taken should the policy be implemented. John Kidd of IFESA said its members had already balloted with a 94 per cent return in favour of industrial action should the policy be implemented.

A spokesman for the Minister said there was no time frame for implementing the plan, with the process only being formally launched yesterday. It had nothing to do with cost-cutting but was designed to streamline services, with safety at its heart.

Fire incidents

In a statement yesterday, Mr Hogan said: “The number of fire incidents is being driven down year on year. While every death from fire is a death too many, I note that the provisional toll for 2012, with 28 people killed in fires, is the lowest annual figure for fire deaths for four decades.”

John Gavigan, chairman of the National Retained Fire Service, representing part-time Siptu members, said the wellbeing of firefighters and the public outweighed the need to uphold the terms of the Croke Park deal.