More than 300 people have come forward to provide emergency cover should a threatened firefighters strike go ahead (From Keighley News)
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More than 300 people have come forward to provide emergency cover should a threatened firefighters strike go ahead
10:00am Thursday 5th September 2013 in Keighley
More than 300 people have come forward to provide emergency cover should a threatened firefighters strike go ahead, the Keighley News can reveal.
Brigade bosses are recruiting members of the public to man and drive fire engines.
The temporary crews are being trained in basic firefighting techniques, and would then attend incidents such as fires and road accidents.
West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said this week that 257 people had applied to be community response operators, who would carry out the general firefighting tasks. And 63 hopefuls had sought to become drivers and pump operators.
Letters have also been sent to ex-firefighters asking them to return to duty.
“Training has begun following a comprehensive shortlisting and testing process, and the first courses have already finished,” said a spokesman.
“Further training courses are continuing during the coming weeks.”
The jobs pay £10 per hour during training and then £150 for 12-hour operational shifts.
The controversial contingency plan, revealed exclusively in the Keighley News three weeks ago, has been drawn-up in case of a strike. Fire Brigades Union (FBU) leaders have balloted members for industrial action regarding planned changes to pensions, and 78 per cent voted in favour.
The FBU – whose executive council meets today to discuss its next move – said the Government is increasing employee contributions and imposing a pension age of 60. Currently the age is 55, but firefighters can retire earlier if they have 25 years’ service.
Ex-Keighley firefighter Joe O’Keeffe, who retired last year after 27 years’ service, is among those who have condemned the brigade’s recruitment scheme.
He received a letter at his Fell Lane, Keighley, home, asking if he would consider helping out.
“I’m not surprised at the high level of response – a lot of people are out of work and they will be looking purely at the money,” said Mr O’Keeffe, 51.
“I can fully understand someone who is unemployed signing up to train for £10 per hour. What I can’t understand is how someone similar to myself, who has retired from the fire service with their pension, could go back and jeopardise the chances of their former colleagues receiving that pension.”
Dave Williams, the FBU’s West Yorkshire brigade secretary, said: “We have a million 18 to 24-year-olds unemployed so the job offer was going to be attractive to them, but they don’t see the bigger picture.
“The result of the ballot – 18,277 in favour and just 5,166 against industrial action – shows the strength of feeling about this.”
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