Wicklow Sinn Féin TD John Brady has reacted angrily to the failure of the Department of Housing, Local Government, and Heritage to bring forward promised proposals to address the recruitment and retention crisis in the Retained Fire Service despite giving previous commitments to do so. While the Department claim that their capacity to bring forward proposals on pay rates and retainer payments has been constrained by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Discussion between representatives from the Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) and national negotiators acting for the Retained FireFighters took place last Wednesday 10th, in relation to the Retained Fire Service ‘Review of Recruitment and Retention and Future Sustainability of Service Delivery’, but negotiations broke down without agreement, as despite some progression, due to government constraints there was no scope to sufficiently address the core issues around the Recruitment and Retention crisis.
The National Retained FireFighter Committee will now be actioning their mandate for industrial / strike action. They will be meeting in Liberty Hall next week on the 19th May to agree the nature and timing of the industrial / strike action.
“Yet again the government, through Minister O’ Brien, have failed the Retained Fire Service, opting to attempt to kick the critical issues at the core of the recruitment and retention crisis in the Retained Fire Service down the road. This is unacceptable and represents a betrayal of a body of public servants who undertake extraordinary risks to safeguard the public.
It is apparent to me that the government approach to the negotiations has been disingenuous at best.
In November, I introduced a motion in 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 then had recommendations which could have been brought to the government.
The government 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. At the time minister O’Brien, in front of a packed gallery of Retained Firefighters justified his opposition to the motion on the basis of a commitment to bring forward proposals to address the recruitment and retention crisis.
It is now mid-May, and we are now in a situation six months after the motion, that due to the Minister’s failures, the Retained Firefighters are now forced to take matters into their own hands and will be meeting next week to action their mandate following a ballot which took place in January when 90% of members voted in favour of industrial / strike action.
I am calling on Minister Darragh O’Brien, and Minister for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Pascal Donohue, to agree serious and meaningful proposals that can be put to the Retained FireFighters over the next number of days. The government needs to meet the needs of Retained Firefighters with serious intent. The alternative is that the Retained Fire Fighters will be forced into industrial / strike action in order to force the government into action.”