Firefighters in the West Midlands have warned they could be forced to take industrial action over plans to cut 300 firefighting posts, leaving the service understaffed, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said.
The proposed cuts to West Midlands Fire Service would mean the service would have to rely on the â€˜pure goodwillâ€™ of firefighters to work non-obligatory overtime shifts to make sure fire engines can be mobilised to emergencies. This development comes as the nationally agreed overtime rate that firefighters are paid of â€˜time and a halfâ€™ has been replaced with a flat rate. It is believed that this will make overtime shifts less attractive, increasing the likelihood of staff shortages, which will in turn put public safety at risk.
Steve Price-Hunt, secretary of the FBU in the West Midlands, said: â€œIndustrial action is always a last resort and we hope it doesnâ€™t have to come to that. But we cannot just let these dangerous cuts that could put fire engines out of action go through.
â€œI became a firefighter to serve the public and protect people from harm. Thatâ€™s the case for every firefighter serving in the West Midlands and the rest of the UK. We cannot just stand by and watch plans be implemented that we know will endanger the public.â€
West Midlands Fire Service have said the 300 firefighting posts earmarked to go will come from what they term â€˜natural wastageâ€™, meaning firefighters who retire or leave the job will not be replaced.
Commenting on this Steve Price-Hunt said: â€œOur concern here is all about the safety of the public and the safety of firefighters responding to those emergencies. These proposals leave firefighters without proper shift systems. Managers are dangerously gambling on the goodwill of firefighters to fully staff the service. We hope managers at the fire service will now begin to re-evaluate these ill-thought out plans.â€
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