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Emergency services stretched as firefighters’ dispute continues

Rolling closures of fire stations across Galway are expected to continue until next Wednesday at least as retained fire fighters escalate strike action over remuneration. 

And the Connacht Tribune has learned that Galway City was uncovered for a short period on two occasions in the past week, as full-time crew from Galway Fire Station at Claddagh responded to county incidents, including a house fire in An Spidéal.

With the city down retained crew due to the strike, sources confirmed extra pressures to cover areas such as An Cheathrú Rua and Tuam from an already stretched Galway Fire Station.

Around 2,000 retained fire fighters, including 106 in Galway, have engaged in strike action since last Wednesday when members of trade union SIPTU rejected a Labour Court recommendation.

David Samuels, assistant industrial organiser with SIPTU, confirmed “rolling 50% closures across the county” would continue until Wednesday.

This means that half of Galway’s ten fire stations will be closed every day, on a rotating basis, although they will respond to life-threatening calls. For safety reasons, the Aran Islands are not striking.

Industrial action in July was suspended for talks at the Labour Court. But strike action resumed last week after SIPTU rejected proposals to increase the retainer paid to retained fire fighters on-call.

“Our members voted 82% against it. It didn’t satisfy what they were looking for. They were on €0.99 per day, and then that went up to €1.22. It was described to me as peanuts on top of peanuts,” Mr Samuels said.

He confirmed retained fire fighters do not want to be on strike, but they were determined.

“The lads are willing to stay at it for the long haul now to get this sorted for once and for all. And that’s countrywide,” added Mr Samuels.

At a national level, SIPTU lashed management for non-cooperation. “SIPTU retained fire fighters are on strike and have been engaged in hours of talks with management locally to ensure there is a reliable system of emergency cover, but they just can’t get cooperation from the management side. This is putting lives at risk,” said SIPTU public administration and community divisional organiser, Karan O’Loughlin.

Sinn Féin, meanwhile, has blamed Government.  “Ministers Darragh O’Brien and Paschal Donohoe have failed to step up to the plate and end this dispute with a credible offer genuinely designed to address the core pay issues in the Retained Fire Service,” said Roscommon/Galway TD, Claire Kerrane.

Director of Services for Planning, Liam Hanrahan confirmed at the Ballinasloe MD meeting that talks at a national and local level were ongoing. National meetings are scheduled for next Wednesday.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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