The Fire Brigades Union welcomes the appreciation shown for our member’s actions at the recent fire at the Glasgow School of Art and previous incidents such as the Clutha bar tragedy.
The fire at the Glasgow School of Art once again emphasises the advantages of having a properly resources and fully crewed fire and rescue service available. The FBU are currently engaged with the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service in agreeing a suitable establishment level for uniform firefighter numbers. Unlike the Police the merger of the 8 fire services did not come with a guaranteed level of posts. As part of this work we recently agreed a safe minimum crewing level, based in the Glasgow and surrounding area on the crewing of appliances with 5 firefighters on both 1st and second appliances at 2 pump fire stations. This continuity of the 5&5 crewing model allows the service to plan on having all appliances available on a 24/7 basis. There are recognised short term difficulties in getting people into posts as quickly as both the FBU and SFRS would like, but transfers into the area should have started and incoming recruits will arrive later in this year and should ease the burden on local stations and allow them to fully crew appliances.
Discussing what this will mean the FBU Scottish Secretary, John Duffy said; “Across other parts of Scotland the emphasis has also been placed very much on the first call appliances and those providing immediate life saving capability. This will also see, for example, a number of firefighters drafted into Fife in order to bolster numbers there. Again the aim is to allow for the full crewing of resources.” The two key areas that are now being focussed on are agreeing the whole time establishment level and developing ways to assist in recruiting and maintaining numbers in stations working the Retained Duty System. The RDS system has suffered recently from the increasing levels of commuting and changes in lifestyle that see people travel further for access services and facilities, meaning that firefighters find it increasingly difficult to provide constant cover in their home areas. The FBU is working with the service and local communities to develop solutions that allow the provision of 24/7 cover.
The Scottish Fire & Rescue Service is facing a £12m cash saving in this financial year as a result of the Austerity policies being pursued by the Conservative/Lib-Dem Government. The service will have seen a total of £45m taken out of its budget over a three year period which started on 1 April 2013. The purpose of the move to a single service was to protect the frontline. The FBU believes that whilst the frontline has seen significant changes it is still capable of providing the kind of response seen in recent incidents, but that ability will be jeopardised without an agreed uniformed establishment similar to that provided for the Police.
John Duffy summarised what the FBU were looking for; “Given the current political discussions in Scotland the FBU calls on all parties in the independence debate to commit to support an agreed establishment level for Firefighters.”