A minimum of 25 fire engines could be left to provide ‘basic’ and ‘limited’ cover in West Yorkshire, in the event of strike action going ahead.
That’s part of a contingency plan put together by West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Authority at its Executive Committee meeting..
The move comes as nationally 78% of members of the Fire Brigade Union’s members (FBU) voted for industrial action after two years of talks over proposed pension changes collapsed.
The contingency plans include:
- Recruiting ‘community response volunteers’ to provide cover. They will cost £60,000, but they will be on zero-hours contracts and only be paid if utilised.
- Inviting firefighters who retired in the last two years to return to duty after undergoing refresher training.
- The Army, equipped with vintage Green Goddess engines, to be put on standby.
- A fire prevention strategy booklet to be sent to some 8,000 higher risk premises days prior to any strike.
The committee supported an agreed minimum cover based on its own targets and agreed no fewer than 20 pumping appliances could be manned which would provide 60% achievable targets of seven-11 minute response times.
A report discussing the proposals, reads: “Whilst it is acknowledged that the contingency service will be no match for the normal arrangements, it will provide effective prevention and protection services, suitable call receipt and mobilisation arrangements and a basic, if limited, emergency response capability.”
West Yorkshire FBU secretary David Williams, who was present at the committee meeting said: “We still hope talks can take place to avoid strike action, as this is a last resort.
“In the event of strike and the authorities’ contingency measures, obviously 20 appliances across West Yorkshire shouldn’t happen and we still hope it doesn’t.
“However in the event of a major incident, such as at the weekend where 15-16 appliances were called, that would leave the rest of the county wide open.”
Mr Williams said the West Yorkshire FBU is meeting on Friday to be updated on the talks and proposals since the national ballot last week.
He said no dates have been put forward but any action cannot legally take place before September 8.
l West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service currently employs 1,250 operational firefighters to man 54 front line appliances and several specialist tenders.