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Emergency services at the scene of a fire on Market Street, Ennis.

Industrial action still on cards for Clare firefighters

Champion Chatter

FIREFIGHTERS in Clare have been put on alert they will be balloted for industrial action next week due to the lack of a breakthrough in their dispute over pay and working conditions.

SIPTU official, Arek Muszynski told the Clare Champion the two-week notice of intention to ballot had expired without any meaningful engagement, which left him with no option but to send out papers to members in Clare and Tipperary next week, possibly on Wednesday or Thursday.

Mr Muszynski said he hadn’t received any meaningful proposals for the national committee or engagement from Clare County Council, apart from an acknowledgement letter.

The Clare Fire and Rescue Service could be severely disrupted over the coming weeks unless serious efforts are made to address the “recruitment and retention crisis” affecting the local Retained Fire Service.

A council spokesman told the Clare Champion, there is no update from last week and noted the Local Government Management Agency are dealing with the matter centrally on behalf of the sector.

SIPTU has confirmed it remains available to “seek an agreed solution to this dispute”.

In a letter to Chief Executive, Pat Dowling dated October 12, SIPTU stated as a result of the failure “and/or refusal of management represented by the LGMA to honour its commitment to make proposals to address the long standing issues giving rise to the recruitment and retention crisis affecting the Retained Fire Service in the county “our members are in dispute with your organisation”.

“You will be aware, our members have sought to progress the ongoing recruitment and retention crisis in the retained service through the established Fire Services National Oversight and implementation Group (FSNOIG) Retained Division.”

“We are now at a stage where despite having repeatedly sought to address this issue through the agreed channels, management has failed to table any meaningful proposals, despite making a commitment to do so, in order to address the recruitment and retention crisis affecting the Retained Fire Service.”

Councillor Johnny Flynn estimated the Clare Fire and Rescue Service is costing €52 per year per capita.

“I don’t see why we can’t increase the expenditure and number of fire fighters by 50% so that it is more attractive for people who want to volunteer on behalf of their community can do so and still have a good work life balance and a reasonable income.

“At national level, better terms and conditions need to be agreed for fire fighters. This is necessary to get the high level of cover we require for severe weather events.

“On February 18, all the fire crews in the seven stations were on standby from 3am to 8am for a storm. We are asking a lot from fire crews to respond to road traffic accidents and severe weather incidents that are becoming more frequent.

“To retain the service, there needs to be urgent consideration at national level of the terms and conditions of retained fire fighters who take up this dangerous role,” he said.

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