Council says 'contingency' in place as firefighters dispute commences

Westmeath County Council has moved to reassure the public that "robust contingency arrangements" are in place, as industrial action by retained firefighters in the county gets underway.

The council, in a statement issued after the commencement of the industrial action, by SIPTU members who are retained firefighters (on an on-call system)

The council said SIPTU had advised that the action started on Tuesday and would be followed by rolling strikes on June 13, and all-out strikes on June 20 should the union's issues around pay structures, recruitment and retention not be addressed.

This dispute arose from a National Review of Recruitment and Retention within the retained Fire Service undertaken in 2022.

The council continued: "As part of the normal industrial relations protocol of agreeing contingency plans, Westmeath County Council’s Fire & Rescue Service management have engaged with SIPTU representatives at local level to put in place robust contingency arrangements and wish to assure the public that every effort will be made to mitigate any risk to them arising from this industrial action."

It said SIPTU has confirmed nationally that it will comply with the provisions of the Code of Practice on emergency disputes reflecting the professionalism and dedication of its retained fire service personnel to ensure that fire services are provided even in a strike situation and has confirmed that it will respond to all emergency calls involving life-threatening situations.

The council advised members of the public to therefore continue to call 112 or 999 in the case of an emergency.

"All homes and businesses should ensure they have working smoke alarms and should carry out regular tests to ensure it is working as normal," it added.