herald

Friday 6 December 2019

Fire crews threaten to strike over staffing as engines stand idle

Dublin Fire Brigade emergency crews are in dispute with Dublin City Council
Dublin Fire Brigade emergency crews are in dispute with Dublin City Council

Firefighters and paramedics from Dublin Fire Brigade are threatening to strike over staffing levels which regularly result in fire engines being parked up because there are not enough crews to run them.

The emergency crews are in dispute with Dublin City Council, which runs Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB), claiming it is failing to address staffing issues.

Current shortfalls are being remedied by overtime. But crews say this is not sustainable and have recently started publishing how many appliances are being parked up every day.

On one day last month five appliances were out of service because DFB was short of 25 personnel.

Sick

Engines at Donnybrook, Dolphin's Barn, North Strand and Tara Street stations, as well as a foam unit tender which covers the docklands and the airport, were out of use.

Retirements, annual leave, staff training, injury and sick leave put continuous pressure on resources, and emergency service workers have called for a recruitment drive to keep crew numbers at a sustainable level.

The city council said it is in discussions with unions to review the existing 'agreed' staffing levels.

"When, on occasions, the agreed operational crewing levels may not be achieved, a long-standing arrangement exists to supplement these vacancies via non-compulsory overtime," said a spokeswoman for the city council.

"However, agreed crewing levels may not be achieved because of non-availability of personnel on overtime.

"When this happens a process is in place to minimise any adverse fire safety and service impacts.

"This may necessitate the temporary withdrawal from service of certain appliances. This action is regrettable."

But now fire brigade crews in Siptu have written to the council to say they are withdrawing goodwill, including voluntary overtime, and will ballot for industrial action, including strike action, if the matter is not resolved by September 6.

In a letter to the council, a Siptu organiser accused it of not adhering to agreements.

"There will be withdrawal of goodwill by staff of measures over and above normal duties, including voluntary overtime and acting up or acting down with effect from August 26," the letter said.

"The withdrawal of goodwill measures will take place on August 26, 27, 28 and 30, with further dates to follow.

"We are further notifying that in the event these issues are not addressed by September 6, it is our intention to ballot members for industrial action up to and including strike action."

The withdrawal of goodwill could leave the brigade down in numbers on duty, resulting in appliances being parked up at stations. There could also be delays in response times.

Last month the Herald highlighted how staffing at DFB had led to fire trucks being parked up.

Absences

"We have been in the Workplace Relations Commission with DCC in February over manning issues and there was an agreement in March for more trainees," said Shane McGill, national secretary of the full-time firefighters branch of Siptu.

"First they said it would happen in May, and then that changed to August.

"We need constant ongoing recruitment to cover absences and replace people who are retiring.

"There are also plans for fire stations in Cherrywood and Clonburris, as well as opening a full-time station to replace the part-time services in Skerries and Balbriggan and these will all need to be manned."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News