Strike plans could ‘put lives at risk’

Birkenshaw Fire Service HQ. Firemen training. Nikki Patel (Dev's daughter from Coronation Street) taking part in the drills to promote the annual fire service awards. (09050955)
Birkenshaw Fire Service HQ. Firemen training. Nikki Patel (Dev's daughter from Coronation Street) taking part in the drills to promote the annual fire service awards. (09050955)

Plans to recruit strike-breaking casual firefighters to cover for crews taking industrial action could put lives at risk, a union has claimed.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has blasted the hiring of “community response officers” who will be sent to serious fires and traffic accidents if strike action is called next month in a dispute over pensions.

The army has been called in to cover strikes in the past, but fire bosses are hiring temporary staff on zero-hours contracts to break any strike action for £12.50 per hour.

A job advert posted online said the casual staff would be trained in “basic fire fighting techniques.”

David Williams, West Yorkshire brigade secretary for the FBU, said: “The training being offered to these individuals is woefully short.

“We are going to be chucking people with three weeks’ training into very dangerous scenarios and people won’t be getting the same level of protection as they currently have.”

Mr Williams said the plans would not only put the public’s lives at risks but also the lives of the community response officers.

He said: “This will put lives at risk for both the inexperienced crews going out to incidents and the people involved in fires and accidents.

“Members of the public know they will not be getting the same level of protection as they would be from professional firefighters.”

West Yorkshire Fire Service said the pensions dispute was between the FBU and central government.

A range of contingency plans were being pursued to provide fire cover during any periods of industrial action.