Page last updated at 16:39 GMT, Sunday, 18 October 2009 17:39 UK

Firefighters strike in shift row

Firefighters' protest
Firefighters held a rally at the fire authority's meeting last month

Hundreds of firefighters in South Yorkshire are due to stage the first of two 24-hour strikes on Monday in a row over controversial new shift patterns.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will walk out at 1800 BST and again on 23 October.

The action comes after 744 employees were threatened with the sack if they did not accept new employment contracts to work 12-hour day and night shifts.

The fire authority said contingency plans were in place to provide cover.

The fire authority wants crews to work the new shifts in place of the current nine-hour days and 15-hour nights.

As long as their threat of mass sackings remains, there will be strikes
Ian Murray, FBU

Earlier this week, the fire authority offered to suspend the plans to allow further negotiations with a condition that crews would work 10-and-a-half hour day shifts and 13-and-a-half hour night shifts until 31 March.

But the union said it had received no formal offer from the fire authority and was pressing ahead with strike action.

Ian Murray, the union's regional secretary, said: "We will have talks at any time to help resolve this dispute.

"If the fire authority withdraws its threat of dismissals and enters genuine talks then the strikes can be called off.

"As long as their threat of mass sackings remains, there will be strikes."

The fire authority said 15 fire engines and more than 120 firefighting staff would maintain the county's emergency cover throughout the strike.

Chief fire officer Mark Smitherman said: "We, together with members of the fire authority, have every confidence in the resilience of our contingency arrangements throughout the forthcoming strikes."

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