South Yorkshire firefighters’ threat of industrial action ballot

Firefighters tackle a massive fire in Mexborough. Picture: Tim Ansell

Firefighters tackle a massive fire in Mexborough. Picture: Tim Ansell

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FIRE service chiefs in South Yorkshire have been given seven days to abandon a range of planned cutbacks - or union members will be balloted for industrial action.

The Fire Brigades Union has given South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue seven days’ notice of its intention to ballot members for ‘action short of a strike’.

The union is locked in a dispute with management over the cutbacks, which involve shutting two fire stations - Darnall and Mansfield Road - and replacing them with a new station near the Sheffield Parkway.

There is also a proposal to close retained stations in Mosborough in Sheffield and Royston in Barnsley.

A full-time station would be built at Birley to replace Mosborough.

Plans have also been drawn up to take three roving fire engines, which normally provide cover when crews are training, out of service.

Another controversial proposal is to change working times and have firefighters at up to six stations at work 24 hours a day for four days at a time.

Fire chiefs claim the closures are necessary to help save £10 million a year over the next four years, forced by Government funding cuts.

John Gilliver, FBU brigade secretary, said he thought the cuts were ‘going too far’.

“Fire crews have shown they can agree to be flexible to protect the front line but these cuts are going too far and we have serious concerns regarding the safety of the public and firefighters in South Yorkshire,” he said.

“As well as front line cuts, senior managers have been imposing changes to our members terms and conditions without agreement and now firefighters in South Yorkshire have said enough is enough.”

Mr Gilliver added: “We thought we’d moved away from this type of behaviour by senior managers following the last dispute being resolved and a change of management at the very top, but it appears we are heading back down the same route.

“Frontline cuts have got to stop and we need to start filling vacancies.”

Last week The Star revealed dozens of Sheffield firefighters were facing pay cuts of £3,500 a year after refusing to crew a new ‘small incident unit’ on safety grounds.

The dispute involved 48 crew members at Elm Lane Station, Sheffield Lane Top, which has been supplied with a new 4x4 vehicle to tackle smaller blazes.

The fire service said the refusal was a ‘breach of contract’.