Union says fire service “in crisis” over pay

By Claire Henry

Galway City and County’s fire service is at ‘crisis point’ over low pay and conditions, according to the union representing fire fighters.

Anthony McCormack, the Assistant Industrial Organiser with SIPTU, said that the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) and Fire Service management need to sit down and engage meaningfully with the union to avoid a looming crisis, both in Galway and nationally.

The crisis was so acute that the County’s emergency service may be unable to continue at current levels unless pay and conditions were improved, he said.

Galway County Council runs the fire service for both the City and County. Fire fighters working in the City are full time; whereas most fire fighters working in the County are part-time.

Low pay was affecting both full- and part-time fire fighters, he said, but the situation was most acute in the county, where “hard-working fire fighters are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year”.

In some instances, fire fighters were unable to take holidays because there was no adequate cover, he claimed.

Full-time fire fighters are paid a wage starting at about €575 a week, which increases based on years of service.

Part-time fire fighters are paid an annual allowance starting at €8,200 a year, and are then paid based on the number of callouts they attend annually.

Fire fighters get €21 an hour for training drills; €43 for the first hour of an emergency callout and €21 an hour thereafter.

Fire fighters get double pay for night-time and weekend callouts.

Mr McCormack claimed that part-time fire fighters were not properly compensated for being on call.

“It is becoming demoralising for us as a union and the members. I think we are coming to a stage now where we are going to have to consult with our members about what way they want to go forward in dealing with this kind of system.

“If management does not get down to dealing with issues and reach an agreement about the issues that are there and make the retained fire service, in particular, a service that is worthwhile for people to be in and that they can make a decent living out of, we will enter into a period of severe industrial unrest,” he warned.

Galway’s fire service is head quartered at the City’s only fire station on Father Griffin Road, with a further 10 stations located around Co Galway.

According to Galway County Council’s website, retained fire fighters are generally required to live within a 1.5 mile radius of their fire station.

Galway County Council did not respond to a request for comment.

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