FIREFIGHTERS in South Yorkshire are being offered a 29 per cent pay increase if they agree to work new shifts, which will see them living at their stations for up to four days a week.
Bosses want to introduce the system from April to save cash due to Government cuts, which could see the county fire service budget cut to £50 million by 2015 - it was £60m in 2010 and is now £55m.
Fire chiefs want to scrap night shifts at six stations in a bid to save £375,000 per station per year.
Instead, firefighters working day shifts would be expected to ‘live’ at their stations on an on-call basis to cover emergencies through the night - they could be at work for four 24-hour shifts in a row before getting time off.
Bosses want to introduce the ‘close proximity crewing’ system at Lowedges fire station in Sheffield before rolling it to Aston Park, Maltby, Rivelin, Tankersley, Thorne and the planned new Birley station.
Some stations will need to be modified to provide living accommodation for crews, but despite the building costs, bosses say savings will still be made as only 14 firefighters will be needed per station instead of 28.
Fire chiefs insist the new system will provide the ‘same level of emergency cover’ as at present.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Mark Shaw said: “We appreciate this system isn’t for everyone, but for those who do volunteer there will be significant benefits in relation to pay and flexibility.
“Close proximity crewing will help us save the necessary £10 million by 2015 while maintaining the same levels of emergency fire cover.”
On-call firefighters would be provided with recreational facilities and be allowed visitors.
But the Fire Brigades Union has criticised the scheme, claiming its main aim is to reduce firefighter numbers.
The union also claims the new hours will ‘shatter’ family lives.