Manchester

Temporary firefighters to cover strike in Manchester

Firefighters in Greater Manchester
Image caption The temporary firefighters will be paid £150 a day during their training

Temporary firefighters with three weeks training could be used to cover striking officers in Manchester.

Greater Manchester Fire Service has advertised 96 short-term posts to cover potential industrial action on 30 November.

Dep Chief Fire Officer Jim Owen said it was a case of the service doing "the best we can under the circumstances".

The Fire Brigades Union's Kevin Brown said it was "disappointing", as no ballot for strike action had been held.

Traditionally, the army's fire service has been used to cover gaps in a brigade's provision due to strikes, but legislation passed in 2004 means that is no longer allowed.

Mr Owen said that while the temporary firefighters would not receive the full training in the three weeks before they take up the role, they would be sufficiently skilled "to allow them to attend a good range of incidents".

Safety concerns

He said that there was no way of replacing "our current workforce and the professionalism and experience that those people have" and that the service had made the decision based on "the time frame that is involved".

The temporary workers will be paid £150 a day during the training, which Mr Brown said could mean a cost to the Fire Service of about £250,000.

He said that "at a time of financial constraints, to see the money used in this way is, at the very least, disappointing".

Firefighters are yet to be balloted on whether they will take part in strike action in November and Mr Brown said his union was working hard to resolve the issue over pensions to avoid the need for such a measure.

"To be frank, we haven't even gone down that route," he said.

"All our efforts at the moment are to come to a resolution regarding the pension issue.

"We've not looked at issuing ballot papers and we're continuing to negotiate."

Mr Brown said he also had concerns about the safety of any temporary firefighters because of the shortness of their training period ahead of active duty.

"It can take anything between 3 to 5 years for a firefighter to be seen as competent," he said.

"The very basic training course for firefighters is around 14 weeks, so for three weeks heaven knows what kind of arrangements will be in place.

"I think everyone will be concerned over safety."

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