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Galway’s firefighter dispute heats up

The industrial action on behalf of retained (part-time) fire fighters will continue to be stepped up over the coming weeks with additional stations closing down, according to the union representing the workers.

With little or no progress being made in the negotiations between the union and Government, each week an extra station in all counties will join the ‘closed list’ for a 24-hour period.

There are two groups of ‘closed stations’ in Galway – Athenry, Clifden, Gort, Loughrea and Mountbellew are in the first one, with the second made up of Ballinasloe, Carraroe, Galway city, Portumna and Tuam.

SIPTU official, David Samuels, said that fewer and fewer people would continue in their roles as retained fire fighters, unless there was a ‘drastic improvement’ in working conditions.

“As things stand, it’s getting harder and harder to recruit people into the retained fire service and unless pay and conditions improve, that situation will worsen,” David Samuels told The Connacht Tribune.

He said that without better structured time off, the job of the retained fire fighters was just two onerous.

“They just can’t go and watch a match or bring their partners out for a dinner if they’re on call. The conditions just have to change,” said David Samuels.

Of Galway’s ten fire stations, the only one with a full-time crew is in the city which is also backed up by retained fire fighters.

In a statement issued this week, Galway County Council said that the industrial action was part of a national dispute between SIPTU members of the Retained Fire Service and the Local Government Management Agency.

“The escalation of the SIPTU industrial action has resulted in the closure of 50% of Galway Fire and Rescue Service fire stations at any one time, for 24-hour periods, on a rolling basis,” said County Council Director of Services Eileen Ruane.

She said as Galway city is both a full-time and retained station, those full-time staff are not involved in the dispute, adding that on days when Galway city is affected by the closures, the city will be reduced from two fire appliances to one.

“As the Galway Fire Authority, Galway County Council’s priority throughout this process, is at all times to ensure public and employee safety.

“In response to the industrial action Galway County Council has put a contingency plan in place, which is under continuous review,” said Eileen Ruane.

She stated that while the strike was a national issue, local discussions in Galway were focused on operational matters to ensure the safe delivery of services for both the fire crews and the public.

“SIPTU has confirmed that its members will continue to respond to life-threatening calls during the dispute. Some calls may have a delayed response due to the industrial action.

“During this industrial dispute, Galway County Council requests that all households and businesses should ensure they have working smoke alarms and should continue to use 999 or 112 calls in the case of an emergency,” said Eileen Ruane.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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