Fear over plan to hire strike-breaking temporary firefighters

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Plans to recruit strike-breaking casual fire fighters to cover for crews taking industrial action could put lives at risk, a union claims.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has blasted the hiring of “community response officers” who will be sent to serious fires and traffic accidents if strike action is called next month in a dispute over pensions.

The army has been called in to cover strikes in the past, but fire bosses are hiring temporary staff on zero-hours contracts to break any strike action for £12.50 per hour.

A job advert posted online said the casual staff would be trained in “basic fire fighting techniques”.

David Williams, West Yorkshire brigade secretary for the FBU, said: “The training that is being offered to these individuals is woefully short.

“We are going to be chucking people with three weeks training into very dangerous scenarios and people won’t be getting the same level of protection as they would currently enjoy.”

The West Yorkshire fire service website said the community response officer roles would involve “attending fires, using breathing apparatus and road traffic collision equipment.”

Fire service bosses said the pensions dispute was between the FBU and central government.

A range of contingency plans were being pursued to provide fire cover during any potential periods of industrial action.