Fire service has to draft in English personnel
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