Page last updated at 18:47 GMT, Monday, 12 October 2009 19:47 UK

Firefighters strike to go ahead

Firefighter (generic)
An alternative to the proposed shift patterns has been rejected

Firefighters in South Yorkshire are to go on strike after last-ditch talks with the county's fire authority failed to resolve the dispute.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service could not reach an agreement on proposed changes to shift patterns.

The FBU said strikes were planned for 24-hour periods starting from 1800 BST on 19 October and again on 23 October.

The dispute is over plans to make both day and night shifts 12-hours long.

'Massive impact'

Firefighters want to keep their current pattern of nine-hour day shifts and 15-hour night shifts.

During talks at South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service's headquarters in Sheffield, the FBU proposed 10-hour shifts, but the authority said it was committed to 12-hour shifts.

The fire service said adding three hours to the day shift from the less productive night shift would result in improved services and more time to train firefighters.

But the FBU said the changes would have a "massive impact" on family life and childcare for its members.

FBU members voted in favour of strike action last month after those who continued to refuse to work the 12-hour shifts were threatened with dismissal.

'No choice'

The organisation's regional secretary Ian Murray said: "South Yorkshire fire crews are very disappointed.

"Having turned down every alternative and rejected national mediation, they [the fire service] have left us with no choice."

The South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said it would provide emergency cover while the strikes are on.

It added it would use its own staff and equipment rather than relying on army fire engines.

Chief fire officer in South Yorkshire, Mark Smitherman, said only 20 people had come forward in the past year to say they had a "significant problem" with the proposed shift changes.

He added that efforts would be made to accommodate anyone who was troubled by any changes.

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