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Firefighters in blazing row over shift system.

Byline: Abby Alford

FIREFIGHTERS are to protest over plans to bring in a new shift system which they fear will lead to dozens of job losses.

The Fire Brigades Union said up to 50 of its members would lobby the fire authority at its meeting on Monday.

The union claims a new rota system designed to help save South Wales Fire and Rescue Service pounds 1.5m will reduce the number of firefighters on duty at three stations and lead to longer hours.

But Deputy Chief Fire Officer Kevin Barry said there was a great deal of misunderstanding around the new rota, known as self-rostering, which means firefighters spend more hours on standby than they do currently.

He said the new shift pattern was voluntary and would not "adversely affect the health, safety and welfare of our staff".

The FBU has arranged a lobby of fire authority members as it believes they will be discussing an early retirement scheme linked to the pounds 1.5m savings plan and new duty system.

The union claims self-rostering, due to be introduced in April 2011, will mean fewer firefighters are needed to man stations in Penarth, Maesteg and New Inn, Pontypool, and consequently lead to the loss of at least 50 firefighters through the means either of redundancy or a voluntary early retirement scheme.

Representatives also claim that after firefighter losses, working hours a week for those that remain will more than double from 42 to 90 or 100.

Mark Watt, FBU chairman in South Wales, told the Echo that the move has "huge health, safety and welfare implications for our members". He said: "Our members are totally opposed to the introduction of this selfrostering duty system and we will be responding to the consultation process with a resounding no.

"We also believe that the consultation process with ourselves and other stakeholders is something of a sham when we have been told that the introduction of this new duty system at three fire stations is only the beginning."

Mr Barry said the item on voluntary early retirement being discussed by fire authority members did not affect operational staff and was not linked to the plan which contains the pledge to save pounds 1.5m.

"We are in the middle of a series of station visits to give our staff the background knowledge on which to make an informed decision about this alternative shift pattern arrangement. "We agree that the self-rostering arrangement is only suitable for our very quiet operational stations.

"Which is why Penarth, New Inn and Maesteg have been identified as stations where this system can provide excellent fire cover at much reduced costs to the public.

"We also recognise that this shift pattern is not for everyone, which is why transfer onto the scheme will be voluntary.

"In return for providing additional hours on standby at the station, staff will receive an additional self-rostering allowance in the region of 20% of their gross salary."
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jun 26, 2010
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