Cork City firefighters to ballot for strike over pay dispute

Firefighters in Cork City are set to ballot for industrial action, up to and including strike action, this weekend in a dispute over back-money linked to pay restoration.

The move, which was confirmed yesterday, comes almost two weeks after about 90 members of Cork City Fire Brigade protested on the steps of City Hall over the issue.

Shop steward Billy Crowley said there has been no formal contact with city council management since the protest.

Siptu has now advised its members in the fire brigade that it has been unable to “progress the issues in dispute” with the firefighters’ employer — the city council.

It said it now intends to ballot its members for industrial action and strike action on Friday and Saturday.

The ballots will be conducted at both fire stations — the Anglesea St headquarters and the Ballyvolane sub-station — to ensure members of all four watches on duty over those two days can vote. A result is expected on Monday.

And if, as is expected, the firefighters ballot in favour of strike action, there is a real possibility the city could be left without full-time 24-hour fire cover for a period.

The council must be given two weeks notice of any intended industrial action.

Firefighters have been extremely busy in recent days, dealing with gorse fires, as well as their routine work responding to property fires, road traffic accidents, river rescues, and cardiac arrests.

This dispute is linked to pay adjustments which were provided for in the extension of the Public Sector Stability Agreement 2018-2020, the Lansdowne Road Agreement.

The agreement included a consequential increase of €500 in the rate of rent allowance and associated salary scale consolidations for firefighters, with the adjustments due to have been applied in July 2017 and January 2018 respectively.

But the payments were withheld nationally, with the exception of Dublin Fire Brigade, which triggered unofficial work-to-rule action in the affected full-time brigades last April.

In Cork, firefighters refused to log incidents using a computerised system, opting to record the incidents using the old paper-based system.

The industrial action led to a written commitment from the Local Government Management Agency, that the adjustments would be paid, nationally and in full, within eight weeks. But the money still has not been paid to the Cork firefighters.

The council has described the unofficial industrial action as “unwarranted and regrettable”.

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