Anger as public asked to provide fire cover if threatened strike goes ahead (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
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Anger as public asked to provide fire cover if threatened strike goes ahead
6:00am Thursday 15th August 2013 in News
Retired firefighters and members of the public are being recruited to provide emergency cover should a threatened firefighters strike go ahead.
Successful candidates will be trained in basic firefighting techniques and then attend incidents such as fires and road accidents.
People are also being hired by bosses at West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to drive the appliances and operate the pumps.
But among those who have condemned the move is former Keighley firefighter Joe O’Keeffe, who retired last year after 27 years’ service, and has received a letter asking him to take part in the emergency cover.
“My first reaction was anger,” said Mr O’Keeffe, 51, of Keighley. “I realise the management are in a difficult position and they have a responsibility to try to provide cover, but what I don’t think is right is actively recruiting strike breakers and undermining legitimate industrial action.”
Dave Williams, West Yorkshire brigade secretary for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said the idea of recruiting members of the public to provide cover was “ludicrous”.
“Every fire has its own dynamics. People with minimal training being sent into these situations won’t be able to react,” he said.
The FBU is holding a national ballot for its members, calling for industrial action over planned changes to pensions. It said the Government was increasing employee contributions and imposing a normal pension age of 60. Currently the age is 55.
The FBU argues many firefighters would be unable to maintain required fitness levels until 60 and would be forced to leave, which would hit their pension.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue said the dispute could only be resolved through a national agreement, but it hoped industrial action would be avoided. It confirmed contingency plans, including the recruitment of temporary fire crews, were being put in place.
A spokesman said: “We remain committed to protecting public safety during such periods and the chief fire officer is actively pursuing a range of contingency planning initiatives to provide fire cover across the county during any industrial action.”
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