Fire ballot for action suspended

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FIREFIGHTERS have withdrawn their threat of industrial action in South Yorkshire - for talks between union and service chiefs to take place.

The Fire Brigades Union was set to ballot for industrial action ‘short of strike’ over job losses, station closures, a reduction in the number of fire appliances on the run, and a plan for crews to use smaller vans for some incidents instead of traditional engines.

The union has now agreed to suspend its ballot to enter into ‘conciliation’ talks.

In return, fire chiefs have withdrawn their threat of cutting firefighter pay if staff refuse to use new smaller vehicles to attend incidents instead of fire engines.

Regional official Graham Wilkinson said: “South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue asked if we will take the issues in our trade dispute to conciliation and we have agreed.

“We have withdrawn our ballot and the service has suspended the threat of part performance pay for now.

“This is a positive step and hopefully we can come away with an agreement on the way forward.

“It shows management and the FBU are trying to do something without the need for the union to take industrial action and hopefully will raise morale among firefighters. We hope to get talks under way over the next couple of weeks.”

The union was threatening action over plans to close four fire stations - Mansfield Road, Darnall, Mosborough and Royston - losing full-size fire engines crewed by four firefighters and replacing them with vans crewed by two.

A new duty system could also see firefighters based at work for 96 hours at a time.

The plans aim to save £10 million by 2015, and went to public consultation before being agreed by the Fire Authority.

Residents and firefighters were asked to come up with alternative viable options. The FBU did not put forward any suggestions.

A fire service spokesman said: “We are pleased the FBU has opted not to ballot for industrial action. It has always been our wish to deal with these difficult issues through constructive dialogue with staff and union representatives, and we sincerely hope this development will help us achieve this.”