Sheffield firefighters face pay cut in row over small vehicle

South Yorkshire's small incident fire unit
South Yorkshire's small incident fire unit

DOZENS of Sheffield firefighters are facing pay cuts of £3,500 a year after refusing to crew a new small incident vehicle they have dubbed a ‘wheelie bin cleaner’.

The Fire Brigades Union says members are in discussions about how to respond to the ‘bully-boy tactics’ and may consider industrial action.

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue says the refusal is a ‘breach of contract’.

The dispute involves 48 firefighters at Elm Lane Station, Sheffield Lane Top, which has lost one of its two fire engines amid cost-cutting measures to save £10 million a year.

South Yorkshire Fire Authority has decided crews involved in the stand-off should lose 12.5 per cent of their pay, because refusal to use the vehicles counts as ‘partial performance’.

Management want to replace the axed full-size engine with a ‘small incident unit’ to tackle small grass fires and wheelie bin arsons - incidents which make up much of the station’s workload.

However, firefighters at the station, backed by the FBU, are refusing to use the ‘inadequate’ new 4x4 vehicle - which they have dubbed a ‘Dinky toy’ and ‘wheelie bin cleaner’.

Firefighters believe they could be put in danger trying to fight blazes using the vehicle, because it could prove inadequate and lead to fires getting out of control.

They claim it will not deliver any savings anyway, because the eight crew required to staff the remaining engine and incident unit is the same number as previously split between two full-sized engines.

One firefighter said: “They are taking money from us, classing refusal to use the vehicles as partial performance.

“It’s going to hit individual firefighters and their families when we are not using the vehicle, because we do not believe it is safe for either ourselves or the public.”

Firefighters are paid about £28,500 per year - 12.5 per cent of which equates to £3,500.

John Gilliver, of the FBU, said: “I think the move by the authority is a disgrace. These are strong, bully-boy tactics to push a vehicle into service which will put lives at risk.”

“If the fire develops, the vehicle would be inadequate and crews would have to call an engine out, which takes time and could put lives at risk.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue confirmed staff involved in the dispute are to lose 12.5 per cent of shift pay for ‘partial performance’.

The service says small incident units are already in use in 29 other areas and that the South Yorkshire vehicle has been used by part-time, retained firemen since 2009 ‘without any problems’.

A fire service spokesman said: “We have been extremely tolerant and have attempted to negotiate with the FBU for more than a month.

“However, the refusal to use a vital piece of equipment that has passed all safety examinations constitutes a breach of contract.”