Page last updated at 01:01 GMT, Friday, 25 September 2009 02:01 UK

Cash offer to avert fire strike

Firefighters in training
The fire service said the changes would allow staff to have more training

Fire crews in South Yorkshire are being offered payments of £1,500 to encourage them to agree to changes in their shift patterns and stop a strike.

Fire Brigades Union members voted in favour of strike action on Wednesday.

They are unhappy about plans to force them to work 12-hour day and night shifts, instead of the current nine-hour days and 15-hour nights.

The fire service said it hoped the financial incentive would lead to the dispute being settled without a strike.

It says the "minor change" to shift times will increase productivity and available training time for firefighters, making them and the public safer.

The ball is now in the FBU's court, and I urge them for everyone's sake to call off this strike
Steve Swarbrick, deputy chief fire officer

The union said it would consider the offer but an alternative proposal it put forward for 10-hour day shifts and 14-hour night shifts was the preferred option.

Deputy chief fire officer Steve Swarbrick said: "In May we accepted the recommendation of an independent panel of a halfway change to shift times, but the FBU rejected it.

"Now the authority has given approval to offer this one-off payment to every member of staff directly affected by the change."

Mr Swarbrick added: "The ball is now in the FBU's court, and I urge them for everyone's sake to call off this strike and come to an agreement as soon as possible."

The FBU said it was consulting its members on the fire service's offer.

But regional secretary Ian Murray said crews remained "totally opposed" to working 12-hour days and nights.

Mr Murray said the union's proposal of 10-hour day shifts and 14-hour nights could result in annual efficiency savings of £4m, whereas the £1,500 payments would cost the fire service £1.1m.

He said: "In the current economic climate our option is the one they should be going for, it is not going to cost anything."

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