Fighting low pay and staffing levels: Firefighters take industrial action

By Mick Barry TD

Labour Court recommendations are expected to be heavily rejected by retained firefighters across the state next week with a fresh ballot on industrial action to follow. 

Up to 2,000 SIPTU members will vote on a proposal to increase the annual retainer from €8,870 to €11,769. 

The proposal also includes reducing the standby hours for each retained firefighter by increasing numbers in each station. 

Falling short 

Retained firefighters don’t believe that these proposals go far enough to resolve the recruitment/retainment crisis within the service and make the point that they fall well short of their demands being met. 

The Government will be nervous about the dispute flaring up again and strike action being put on the agenda as autumn and national pay negotiations draw nearer. 

Socialist Party TD Mick Barry says: “Two thirds of the nation’s firefighters are retained and the service can’t operate fully across the country without their labour. Firefighters do not want to have to strike again but if the Government stands idly by they will have little choice. If workers are forced to place pickets again they will be determined to go all the way and finish the job this time.”

Escalating action 

Meanwhile, Cork city firefighters have unanimously rejected a WRC proposal to resolve an 89 day dispute over staffing levels and the reopening of the Ballincollig station. 

The WRC proposal involved a “robbing Peter to pay Paul” approach towards staffing levels in the city and Ballincollig – the scale of the rejection shows this is not going to fly and failure by the Council to negotiate an improved offer will clearly now result in an escalation of industrial action.

Both the retained firefighters issue and the Cork dispute underline the failure of successive right-wing Governments to properly fund vital public services and the need for a Government prepared to put public services for the many above profits and wealth-hoarding for the few.

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