Almost 2,000 part-time firefighters due to begin industrial action on Tuesday

Union accuses management side of failing to seriously engage on central issues in dispute

The union representing about 2,000 retained firefighters due to take industrial action on Tuesday has accused the management side of failing to seriously engage on the issues at the heart of the dispute – pay and structured time off.

About two-thirds of the State’s firefighters are expected to be involved in the action, with those involved responding to emergency calls only. Over the coming weeks the nature of the action is scheduled to escalate, with a first day of all-out strike action set to take place on June 20th.

“I’m not optimistic there will be any resolution to this before there is really serious disruption to the service,” said Siptu divisional organiser Karan O’Loughlin. “We’ve had talks on this but those talks didn’t go anywhere because there was no serious offer made and now there’s a bit of a confidence issue, a bit of a credibility issue involved.”

The failure of the Local Government Management Association (LGMA) to make a significant offer on pay suggests a lack of urgency, the union claimed, but the association said it was prohibited from granting pay increases outside of the terms of the current national pay agreement during that deal’s lifetime.


Unlike the 1,200 or so professional firefighters, mostly based in larger urban centres, those involved are not full-time employees but rather work on an on-call basis. They receive a retainer worth between about €8,000 and €12,000 per annum, then fees when they respond to call-outs and hourly rates which range from about €20 per hour to €80 per hour at night or over weekends.

Total annual earnings are estimated to range from €18,000 to €45,000 and while those involved are technically free to take other jobs, they are obliged to live and work close to their stations and be in a position to respond to a high percentage of call-outs.

“A lot of employers don’t want to have staff they have to let go at no notice like that,” said Ms O’Loughlin. “In certain cases even the ones working for the council are having issues, that’s one of the challenges.”

With both recruitment and retention recognised as problematic, a report commissioned to review pay and conditions found that with pay having declined due to a fall in the number of call-outs, a move towards a larger basic pay model should be pursued, along with rosters that allowed the firefighters more guaranteed time off.

Minister for Local Government Darragh O’Brien has expressed support for the implementation of the report and talks on the issue were commenced but broke up without agreement on the issue of pay. The LGMA said it was willing to continue the negotiations with the help of a mediator but the union said there was no point when it would not move on pay.

Both sides say local strike committees have been consulting with management on the handling of emergencies with processes said to be in place to decide which 999 calls will be treated as such.

“Siptu have confirmed that throughout the strike action it will comply with the provisions of the code of practice on emergency disputes reflecting the professionalism and dedication of its retained fire service personnel to ensure that fire services are provided even in a strike situation and have confirmed that it will respond to all emergency calls involving life-threatening situations,” said the LGMA in a statement.

“Members of the public should therefore continue to call 112 or 999 in the case of an emergency.”

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times