South Wales fire service is hiring zero-hour contract firefighters to work while union members are on strike.
The service is advertising for ‘auxiliary’ firefighters and drivers to limit the impact of industrial action after an eight-day strike was announced.
They will work on zero-hour contracts and will be paid £13 an hour. Trainee firefighters get paid around £9.70 an hour, rising to £12.90 when fully competent.
Union members and officials have criticised the move that will put firefighters with two weeks training on the front line.
South Wales Fire Brigades Union (FBU) Secretary. Alex Psaila, said: “We have got a 98% FBU membership in South Wales and no FBU member has worked during the strike.
“But auxiliary firefighters are not trained to our standard and the cover is seriously reduced.
“They get a couple of weeks training on individual roles, such as drivers.
“Normal firefighters get 14 weeks basic induction plus a two-year NVQ on the job.
“During strike action, only four or five units are available to them compared to 64 usually, and they’re not fully-trained on these.
“None of us want to be on strike, we all want to be working, but the government are forcing our hand.”
South Wales Fire and Rescue Service defended its employment practice.
A spokesman said: “The ongoing industrial dispute is between the FBU and the UK Government and not the fire and rescue authority.
“We are powerless to bring the dispute to an end other than to continue to hope a negotiated resolution can be found.
“In the meantime, our focus, and legal duty, is to provide a fire and rescue capability to keep the communities and people of South Wales safe.”
Firefighters across England and Wales are walking out for three hours across eight consecutive days from August 9 as part of a pension dispute.
The dispute has been ongoing for two years and in a statement the FBU said the UK Government’s pension proposals were unfair.
The statement said: “The current proposals in England and Wales are still unworkable and mean that firefighters will still face dismissal simply because they cannot maintain the high physical fitness requirements necessary for their role until they are age 60.
“The proposals would also mean that if firefighters opt for early retirement, the reduction in their pension would be unacceptably high.”
Matt Wrack, FBU General Secretary, said: “It is absolutely ludicrous that a government can impose a scheme which means that firefighters will have to ride engines and rescue people from fires up to age 60.
“This is unsafe and unrealistic for both firefighters and the public.
“We know it, and the public know it, but the government will not listen to the evidence based case we have made to them.”
South Wales Fire and Rescue Service has urged people to be “extra vigilant” during the strike.
Acting Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Richie Prendergast, said: “South Wales Fire and Rescue Authority understand why staff are taking industrial action but we have a duty to do all that we reasonably can to make sure the people and communities of South Wales remain protected.
“During these periods we urge our communities to be extra vigilant as they go about their business. During strikes we will continue to provide fire cover, although it will not be anywhere near the normal levels, but the public can be assured life critical incidents will be responded to as a priority.”
Planned talks today, August 7, between the FBU and UK Government collapsed after the union received a letter from Fire Minister Penny Mordaunt saying the meeting had “fallen”.
• More than a million council workers across Wales, England and Northern Ireland could strike on a second day of action in a pay dispute with the UK Government.
Hundreds of thousands of local government workers walked out on July 10 demanding a one pound an hour pay rise.
The GMB, Unison and Unite have named October 14 for the next action.
They claim council workers have taken a 20% pay cut in real terms since 2010.