Fire chiefs in Cambridgeshire have been accused of peddling an unlawful shift system that could see firefighters work 96-hour shifts.
Day Crewing Plus, the Victorian era shift system that chiefs have proposed, would see firefighters spend four days and nights working on a station. The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has said it sets a dangerous precedent for public safety and could result in dangerously tired firefighters being sent into burning buildings and other critical emergencies.
Riccardo la Torre, secretary of the FBU in East Anglia, said: “It’s as if chief fire officer Chris Strickland does not care about the quality of service that the public receive. Who in their right mind would believe that an individual working 96 hours straight, can realistically be expected to be operationally ready for any eventuality? To rescue someone from a burning building or from swift moving flood water?
“Chris Strickland is playing Russian roulette with the lives of firefighters and the public they serve. He is fully aware that these proposals are unlawful and he’ll also be aware of studies that show the detrimental impact on the health of individuals working excessive shift work. It is completely immoral.
“We will resist these proposals by all means necessary.”
Last year, in a case brought to an employment tribunal by the South Yorkshire branch of the FBU, the Health and Safety Executive ruled that a similar shift system - Close Proximity Crewing - was “unlawful” and contravened the Working Time Directive. The agency issued this verdict in correspondence to all chief fire officers.
The union also pointed out the move was a ‘trojan horse’ to cut wages within the fire and rescue service as the system would mean firefighters would be paid £8.29 an hour – just 4p above the UK living wage.