Wicklow Sinn Féin TD John Brady stated in Leinster House today that time was rapidly running out for the government to prevent an all-out strike by retained fire fighters, who are scheduled to begin rolling work stoppages from next Tuesday.
SIPTU warned today that from Monday fire fighters would begin resigning from the Retained Fire Service. There are anecdotal reports emerging that fire fighters around the country have already made the decision to quit and are handing in their pagers at their local stations.
With staffing levels already at crisis level, any further loss of experienced personnel could leave the service in a situation from which it would be unable to recover.
Speaking in Leinster House today, Teachta Brady said:
“Retained Fire Fighters have been badly let down by this government. They have been urging the government to act on unfair working conditions and unsafe staff levels, but the government has failed to engage with constructive solutions and demonstrate good faith.
”Retained Fire Fighters travelled to the Dáil twice this week in exasperation. On Tuesday, they sat in the public gallery, to be treated to a display of contempt for their concerns by Minister Darragh O’Brien.
“The Minister was left in no doubt as to how his speech on the Sinn Féin motion to resolve the crisis in the Retained Fire Service was received, when just before he finished, the several dozen fire fighters in the public gallery stood and walked out in anger.
“Today, hundreds of fire fighters marched from Connolly Station to the gates of Leinster House where they gathered in a last-ditch attempt to prevent a strike next week. But were left bitterly disappointed that yet again the Minister refused to come out and meet with them
“After addressing the fire fighters at the gate to Leinster House, I was approached by a fire fighter, who told me has had enough, and had taken the decision to walk away from the service, as he was unable to take any more.
“He then proceeded to hand me a pager and asked if I could give it to Minister O’Brien. And to tell the Minister that it was only the first of many hundreds which he would receive in the next week if he continued to sit on his hands and refuse to address the crisis in the retained fire service which resulted in the strike action.
“I felt obligated to carry out the wishes of the fire fighter who entrusted me with the pager. And later in the afternoon, I handed the pager to the Minister in the Dáil Chamber. Where I informed him of the fact that there would be many more coming his way very soon if he continued to refuse to make a real and meaningful attempt to resolve the issues underpinning the crisis in the retained fire service.
“The Minster needs to take cognisance of the reality that the situation is now at crisis point. If he continues in his current approach, the retained fire service will very quickly cease to be.
Minister O’Brien needs to act immediately to prevent the situation getting to a point from which it cannot recover.
”Retained fire fighters undertake crucial, highly skilled work to protect our communities. They deserve fair pay and decent working conditions. Current staffing levels are simply unsafe and unsuitable.
”Sinn Féin brought positive, constructive solutions to the Dáil this week outlining how this impasse could be resolved and a viable future secured for the service. However, the government refused to back these proposals.
”Their approach is not tenable. They must engage in good faith negotiations and show a willingness to find genuine solutions.”