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Legal battle over South Yorkshire fire service shift pattern reaches court

Martin Blunden, of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue
Martin Blunden, of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue

Calls are to be made in court for a South Yorkshire fire service shift pattern to be axed.

The Fire Brigades Union is taking legal action against South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue over its use of 'close proximity crewing,' where firefighters work four day shifts in a row and live at their stations on an 'on-call' basis at night.

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Fire chiefs claim that paying firefighters to be on call rather than paying entire crews to work nights saves the fire service £1.6 million a year.

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The system operates at Lowedges, Tankersley, Edlington and Aston fire stations.

The Fire Brigades Union has raised a number of objections since the system was introduced in 2014, with the dispute centring around close proximity crewing breaching working time regulations.

The case is to be discussed at the High Court in Leeds on April 26.

Reference to the shift pattern in South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue’s Integrated Risk Management Plan, published in April 2017, has been challenged by the FBU.

Fire chiefs claim difficult decision may have to be made about how to maintain their 999 response service if the shift system is scrapped.

They claim that the same system, or variants of it, are also used by around a quarter of other fire and rescue services.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Martin Blunden, said: "The most recent plans, which were approved by the Fire Authority in 2017, reaffirm the commitment we have repeatedly made since the beginning of austerity in 2010, to provide the best possible service to the people of South Yorkshire within the resources which are available to us.

"For us, CPC remains part of fulfilling that vision and a move away from the system would require us to make other changes to our 999 service which will inevitably impact on our emergency response."

Bosses stress that South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue has lost a quarter of its Government funding since 2010.