Firefighters to hold "continuous" industrial action over control room cuts

FIREFIGHTERS have voted in favour of “continuous” industrial action as a dispute over plans to cut a quarter of control room operators rumbles on.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will start an ongoing period of action short of strike from 8am next Wednesday.

Neil Garbutt, FBU secretary for South Yorkshire, said action was being taken because of changes to the way annual leave is managed and fitness tests.

He said: “85 per cent of those that voted in the ballot voted in favour of action which just shows the strength of feeling.

“The fact that management have failed to follow procedures and policies is at the forefront of the dispute.”

South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (SYFR) announced plans to cut eight of the 32 emergency call handlers last year.

The authority has also passed on the handling of firefighters’ annual leave to watch managers at stations and, Mr Garbutt said, it can also now dock the pay of officers who fail fitness tests.

Mr Garbutt said: “We have had a series of imposed policies on us and I think it’s more about the dictatorial approach from senior management than anything else.

“We have had a failure from them to even sit down with us and discuss it with us.”

Mr Garbutt said the action would be “continuous” and will include a refusal to comply with the new holiday system, a refusal to take part in any fitness test relating to the new policy and a refusal to work outside of contracted hours.

He said: “We have got a national policy on fitness but managers are wanting to impose a different system locally.

“The new system will mean if we are not fit then managers can dock our money and put us through a very thorough capability test process.

“We completely understand that firefighters need to be, I want to be clear about that, but what we are against is it being different to national policy.”

A spokesman for South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said: “The changes to control will not see anyone being made redundant- in fact, we are currently recruiting people into control to fill vacancies.

“The number of calls to our control room has fallen significantly in recent years. At the same time, we have had some big reductions to our funding and must look at making changes to all areas of the organisation to help protect the number of fire engines available to respond to 999 calls.

“Whilst we are disappointed with the decision of the FBU to take industrial action, the public should be reassured that this will have no noticeable effect on the 999 service they receive from us.”