Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Monday, 24 August 2009 12:01 UK

Fire crews meet over sack threat

Fire crews in South Yorkshire who claim they have been threatened with the sack in a row over shift patterns are holding a series of meetings this week.

Union members started an overtime ban in June in protest at plans to turn nine-hour day shifts and 15-hour night shifts to 12-hour day and night shifts.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said 744 staff had been threatened with the sack if they did not accept the changes.

The fire service said dismissal would be a "last resort".

In addition to the overtime ban, FBU members have also stopped doing "detached" duties - where firefighters go to other stations to cover staffing shortfalls.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack is addressing the meetings of "angry" firefighters in Rotherham, Doncaster and Barnsley, the union said.

'Minor change'

Ian Murray, the FBU's regional secretary, said firefighters were "gearing themselves up" to take further action if no agreement was reached with the fire authority.

He said: "South Yorkshire Fire Authority is adopting the worst sort of bully-boy tactics rather than seeking to resolve the dispute in a reasonable way.

"It is showing a callous indifference to dedicated firefighters and their families by seeking to impose a new shift pattern which could seriously disrupt childcare and other family arrangements for the firefighters of South Yorkshire.

"We have female members and single parents who would find this imposed change impossible to deal with."

A South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "We are in a 90-day consultation period with the FBU and we hope to reach an agreement with them within that period.

"Any dismissal and re-engagement process would be a last resort in line with the relevant trade union legislation. It is important to remember that no jobs are being lost at South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, nobody is losing any money, and no one will have to work any extra hours.

"This is a minor change to move three hours from the night shift to the day shift which will make our firefighters and the people of South Yorkshire significantly safer."



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