North Yorkshire Combined Fire Authority have seven days to avert firefighters in North Yorkshire voting for the first time ever locally on whether to take industrial action over a series of cutbacks that will result in fire crews taking up to 30 minutes longer to make it to the scene of an emergency. There are serious concerns for public safety and the safety of firefighters as a result of the impact the cutbacks will have.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said that proposals put forward by the Combined Fire Authority (CFA) to replace six fire engines with smaller Tactical Response Vehicles, which carry as few as two firefighters, will severely extend the amount of time it will take to perform rescues from fires and road traffic collisions. This is because fire crews will have to wait at the scene for more specialised equipment to arrive before performing rescues.
The union has also warned that, due to a chronic shortage of firefighters, scores of fire engines are unavailable at any one time. This again contributes to the slowing emergency response to incidents, which are their longest nationally in two decades at the government’s own admission.
Steve Howley, secretary of the FBU in North Yorkshire, said: “The CFA’s plan will lead to a significant and unacceptable increased risk to the public and to frontline firefighters. Despite public opposition to the plans agreed by the CFA last December and our best attempts to resolve the issues through negotiation with local managers, we have now been forced to put the matter in the hands of the fire authority to try to resolve. If they fail to do so, we are left with no option but to ballot our members for industrial action.”
The FBU have also slammed the CFA for abandoning its promise to phase in the changes over a four-year period, which the union says would have given managers the time to address concerns about the shortage of firefighters and fire engines being unavailable.
Howley added: “The CFA have gone back on their word. Instead of trying to fix the problems, senior managers are pushing ahead with a drastic plan which will end up costing lives. We cannot accept that. The CFA and chief fire officer for North Yorkshire are failing in their duty to provide the effective fire and rescue service the public pay for and deserve.”