South East Wales

Strike ballot on south Wales fire station rota plans

Firefighters in south Wales will be balloted for strike action over planned rota changes at three fire stations.

The Fire Brigades Union says 50 jobs will go as a result of changes, being brought in to save £1.5m annually.

Fire crews at Penarth, Maesteg and New Inn, in Pontypool, would double their weekly work hours, said the union.

South Wales Fire and Rescue Service called the ballot "premature", saying no decision on rota changes would come before September.

Mark Watt, south Wales secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said he was confident of a "resounding yes vote in the ballot".

He said: "Our members do not want to jeopardise the safety of the public by taking strike action but they do want to express their anger at the management of the South Wales Fire Service."

He described doubling working hours for staff as "totally unacceptable".

He said: "We will do everything we can, including taking strike action to defeat these proposals."

Chief Fire Officer Andy Marles, from the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said the authority was consulting with the "public, staff and represented bodies" on any proposed changes as part of its Risk Reduction Plan for 2010/11.

He said: "At present the service has not received a letter registering a dispute. The union will be meeting with the fire authority on Friday and I believe at this time it seems premature in registering a dispute.

"The final decision will not be made by the fire authority until the end of September, when they will have had the opportunity to consider all the views expressed during this current 12-week consultation."

Mr Watt told BBC Radio Wales that consultation was "a sham".

He said: "The funding is already in place and the plans are already drawn.

"We are not naive enough to think there are not cuts to be had. But why is it operational staff that take the hit every time?"

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