Page last updated at 15:22 GMT, Friday, 24 April 2009 16:22 UK

Fire crews vote for shift action

Fire crews in South Yorkshire have voted in favour of industrial action over new shift patterns.

From 4 May crews are expected to go from working two nine-hour day shifts and two 15-hour night shifts to 12-hour day and night shifts.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says the shifts will cause childcare problems. Crews have voted three to one in favour of industrial action short of a strike.

The fire service has said the changes would lead to improved services.

The FBU said 586 votes were cast in the ballot, with 441 people voting in favour of industrial action and 143 voting against.

The union said that from 0001 BST on 4 May firefighters would only work to their contractual nine-hour days and no pre-arranged overtime will be worked.

'Rethink plans'

Union spokesman John Gilliver said: "South Yorkshire fire crews have shown the strength of opposition to being forced to work an extra three hours during the day shift.

"This explodes the myth peddled to councillors that there was little opposition and that the plans were popular.

"This damaging myth has led the councillors to support disastrous plans to impose changes without agreement on 4 May.

"I would urge them to listen to this clear message from fire crews and rethink those plans."

When the new shift patterns were announced in February, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said the changes would improve public safety by providing firefighters with up to three extra hours a day for training and community safety work.

Chief fire officer Mark Smitherman said equalising the day and night shifts was more "family friendly" because firefighters could swap shifts more easily or request days-only or nights-only working.

He said the service already ran a childcare vouchers scheme and was negotiating an additional discount and extended opening hours with childcare providers to help staff.

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