Wicklow Sinn Féin TD John Brady has described indications that the members of the Retained Fire Service across Wicklow have voted overwhelmingly in favour of both industrial action, and strike action by a margin of 99% and 98% respectively, as being indicative of the scale which the government has failed the members of the Retained Fire Service. This follows notice of intent to ballot for industrial and strike action being served on the Chief Executive of Wicklow County Council in October.
“Results revealed today show that 99% of Retained Fire Fighters in county Wicklow have taken the decision to vote in two ballots in favour of industrial action, and in favour of strike action.
This is a decision taken by a body of people driven to the end of their tether by the wilful neglect of the government to engage in a meaningful way to attempt to resolve the many difficulties that beset the Retained Fire Service.
Just a few short weeks ago, I brought a forward a motion to the Dáil that sought the establishment of a Joint Oireachtas cross party committee, to sit for a period of four months and that would have heard evidence from expert witnesses and stakeholders in order to identify the key issues impacting on the Retained Fire Service. Following which it would have brought recommendations to the government.
The government, including the three government TDs from Wicklow took the decision to vote against my motion, abandoning any attempt to resolve the recruitment and retention crisis that is crippling the Retained Fire Service.
The Retained Fire Service are frontline workers, they are our friends, relations, and neighbours across the county of Wicklow. They are the first people that ordinary people in Wicklow see on perhaps the worst day of their lives. Their safety and our safety, the safety of the general public, is conditional on the willingness of management to give them the resources needed to do their job safely. There appears to be a reluctance by management to do this.
With the current crisis in retention and recruitment they are forced to work extra hours to make up for staffing shortages where they forgo time off to spend with families. It is not a role conducive to family life. And the retainer money they receive does not come close to compensating them for the sacrifices that they make.
Current conditions offer little incentive for new recruits to the Retained Fire Service. It is seen as a thankless role with little or no personal benefit. A recent survey points to some 60% of Retained Fire Service intending to leave the service in the near future. Many within the next year.
The strain of being on 24-hour call, seven days a week, in understaffed fire stations, with little hope of promotion is having a significant impact on morale. Many highly trained, highly motivated individuals who love the fire service, and are committed to serving their communities are being forced out of the job.There is an urgent onus on Minister O’Brien to bring forward proposals with the potential to resolve the difficulties in the Retained Fire Service. It is he alone who now has the capability to ensure that the Retained Fire Fighters are not forced into either industrial or strike action in order to save their service.”