Fire ser­vice has to draft in Eng­lish per­son­nel

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Comment - By Gareth Rose

SCOT­LAND’s fire ser­vice is to draft in re­cruits from other bri­gades around Bri­tain as it strug­gles to deal with a staffing cri­sis.

The move comes as the union rep­re­sent­ing fire­fight­ers warns that the ser­vice is ‘play­ing Rus­sian roulette’ with the lives of its staff and with pub­lic safety.

The Scot­tish Fire Bri­gades Union (FBU) claims fire­fight­ers are be­ing forced to work dan­ger­ously long hours to cover for staff short­ages.

Union of­fi­cials say fire­fight­ers are be­ing left so tired they strug­gle to drive safely home from work.

New fig­ures high­light the scale of the prob­lem, show­ing that the Scot­tish Fire and Res­cue Ser­vice is forenow.

‘Play­ing Rus­sian roulette’

cast­ing a £5.2 mil­lion over­spend on its an­nual over­time bill. The over­time is the equiv­a­lent of an ex­tra 175 jobs.

There are strict rules over how much over­time fire­fight­ers can safely work but the FBU be­lieves this is not be­ing mon­i­tored.

The prob­lem is par­tic­u­larly bad in Aberdeen but af­fects the whole of Scot­land and the union says, for ex­am­ple, that it can­not be sure the fire­fight­ers who at­tended the Glas­gow School of Art blaze were not over­worked and over­tired.

Chris McGlone, FBU ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil mem­ber for Scot­land, said chiefs had failed to pre­pare for a wave of re­tire­ment, trig­gered by high lev­els of re­cruit­ment in the 1980s.

He added: ‘The ser­vice is re­cruit­ing They’re bring­ing in rea­son­able num­bers of re­cruits, but we’ve got a three-year lag.’

Over­time is al­lowed, but not more than 24 hours a month, ac­cord­ing to the FBU. Mr McGlone be­lieves the size of the over­time bill must mean some are ex­ceed­ing that.

‘If I were a gam­bling man, with an over­time bill of over £5 mil­lion I would think some­one has,’ he said.

‘They are play­ing Rus­sian roulette with peo­ple’s con­di­tions of ser­vice.’

Asked if that Rus­sian roulette ex­tended to pub­lic and fire­fighter safety, he added: ‘Ab­so­lutely. You have to have your wits about you when you go to a fire, or go to a road traf­fic col­li­sion.’

But Iain Bushell, deputy chief of­fi­cer at the fire ser­vice, said: ‘We are tak­ing steps to ad­dress the re­quire­ment for over­time, in­clud­ing sig­nif­i­cant lev­els of re­cruit­ment, in­ward trans­fer of qual­i­fied fire­fight­ers from other ser­vices, and a more flex­i­ble de­ploy­ment of re­sources.

‘The use of over­time is ac­tively mon­i­tored and recorded.’

IN­FERNO: Glas­gow Art School blaze

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