Fire chiefs to hold talks

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FIRE chiefs have expressed their ‘disappointment’ at union plans to ballot firefighters for industrial action.

They spoke out after the Fire Brigades Union gave South Yorkshire Fire Service management seven days to scrap some proposed cutbacks they claim will impact on working conditions and risk lives.

FBU officials have written to the brigade notifying managers of their intention to ballot for industrial action ‘short of a strike’ over cost-cutting plans which include the closure of two of the busiest stations in Sheffield – Mansfield Road and Darnall – and replacing them with a new one off The Parkway.

The union is also against plans to axe the night shift at six fire stations, with day shift firefighters paid to work after dark on an ‘on-call’ basis instead.

Crews would be expected to live at their stations for up to four days at a time.

Fire chiefs need to save £10 million by 2015 following Government funding cuts.

Their proposals were rubber stamped by members of the county’s Fire Authority following public consultation when residents, groups and firefighters were asked to give their views and come up with alternative suggestions to help save the same amount of cash.

A fire service spokesman said: “This is disappointing, given that the Fire Authority made its decisions, following a full public consultation, to maximise public safety despite Government cuts to our budget of over £10 million.

“It was unfortunate that FBU officials were unable to put forward any alternative proposals to make the necessary savings during the public consultation period.

“We continue to have constructive discussions with our staff over these issues, and will keep trying to engage the FBU’s officials as we implement the Authority decisions and continue our work to improve public safety across South Yorkshire.”

But the FBU claims managers are driving through changes to terms and conditions ‘without agreement’.

FBU brigade secretary John Gilliver said: “Firefighters in South Yorkshire have said enough is enough’.