Limerick firefighters and emergency call operators vote for strike action

The Limerick Fire Service campus on Mulgrave Street. Photo: Google

LIMERICK-based emergency call operators and retained firefighters have voted for a campaign of industrial action in a dispute with Limerick City and County Council over job conditions.

SIPTU announced that its members who are employed as retained firefighters by local authorities across the country will begin a campaign of industrial action on Tuesday, June 6.

Sector Organiser Brendan O’Brien said the campaign would commence with members restricting their work to only responding to emergency calls.

“This will involve non-cooperation with training, drills and radio calls through the emergency centres being replaced by the use of mobile calls to fire service management.”

Mr O’Brien said a series of rolling work stoppages would begin on June 13, followed by an escalation to an all-out strike on June 20, if the dispute has not been resolved.

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“Almost 2,000 Retained Fire Service members are organised in SIPTU across 200 fire stations nationally. They are required to provide 24/7 emergency response and restrict their movement, at all times while on call, to within typically five minutes travel time of their fire station,” Mr O’Brien explained.

“Many firefighters are unable to take their leave entitlements due to staff shortages and they have also seen their incomes drastically reduced due to reductions in call outs over the last number of years and other restrictions imposed by the Fire Service,” he added.

The trade union says the dispute was caused by the failure of management to adequately address a worsening recruitment and retention crisis in the service.

Meanwhile, the 999/112 emergency call operators who dispatch firefighters to call-outs across Munster have also voted for industrial action.

SPITU represents 24 emergency call operators based at the Munster Regional Communications Centre (MRCC) attached to the Limerick Fire Service campus on Mulgrave Street.

The union said that staff had voted unanimously in favour of industrial action and strike action, in furtherance of their campaign to persuade council management to undertake job evaluations.

A letter, signed by a SIPTU representative, states that a general meeting of the union is scheduled for Monday, May 30 at the MRCC to form a strike committee.

The letter added that the timing, nature and duration of the action will be decided at the meeting.

MRCC 999/112 operators process an average of  26,000 calls a year for 69 retained and full-time fire stations in Limerick, Clare, Tipperary, Kerry, Cork and Waterford.

SIPTU said MRCC staff had not had a job evaluation in 23 years, despite changes to their work practices over this period and Limerick City and County Council had failed to adequately engage with it over its call for job evaluations.

SIPTU met with Council executives on May 2 but no agreement was reached, resulting in a ballot of MRCC staff last week.

Union officials informed the Council that “technological advances, tougher transparency regimes and the higher levels of skill and responsibility required for MRCC staff demonstrate that job evaluations are essential”.

Limerick City and County Council said it had “sought to constructively engage with SIPTU within the parameters of the current public service agreement and regretted that SIPTU decided to ballot their members for industrial action given the industrial peace clauses of the agreement.

A Council spokesman said they were preparing a response to the result of the MRCC ballot.