The chief officer of a fire service has been re-trained on the use of ladders and dealing with emergencies as part of contingency plans in case firefighters go on strike.
Senior officers from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service will be put onto fire engines if the walk out goes ahead in a row over pensions.
Training has been taking place over the past two months since the ballot by the Fire Brigades’ Union was announced. West Midlands Fire Service says it also has plans to keep the public safe if its firefighters walk out.
The result of a national ballot of firefighters is expected to be revealed at the end of the month. If strike action goes ahead around 1,200 firefighters in the West Midlands would be expected to strike, along with up to 600 in Staffordshire.
Senior fire officers in Staffordshire, including chief fire officer Peter Dartford, would be aided by retained firefighters. Chairman of Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Authority, Councillor Len Bloomer, said: “We will have staff available. Everyone has been trained from the chief officer down over the past couple of months.
“We would also be able to call on our retained firefighters.”
Chris Enness, deputy chief fire officer said: “Should there be industrial action, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service will endeavour to provide some form of emergency cover around the county, but we will be unable to provide our normal comprehensive service. It will not be business as usual.”
The strike is being threatened over reform of firefighters’ pensions to increase their retirement age from 55 to 60 and reduce benefits. The FBU says many firefighters cannot continue till 60 due to the physically demanding nature of the work.
Members say they want the fire minister Brandon Lewis to reconsider. Andy Dennis of the West Midlands FBU said: “Things are reaching a crucial point. We felt we had no choice but to ballot our members. The plans are totally unacceptable. It is in the hands of Brandon Lewis to end this.”
John Edwards, chairman of the West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority, said: “ This dispute is not with West Midlands Fire and Rescue Authority, it is not of our making and we have no control over the outcome.
“We do, however, understand and appreciate the strength of feeling amongst our staff in relation to the proposed changes to their pension scheme. The service will work towards minimising any adverse impacts of strike action by using contingency plans to ensure that we manage down risk as best we can.
“I urge the fire minister to re-enter discussions with the Fire Brigades Union in order to find a negotiated settlement to this dispute in the interests of the whole of the fire service.”