HEREFORD and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service has rebutted union allegations that its firefighters will all be sacked if an agreement cannot be reached on a new duty system.

Its comments come after the Fire Brigade Union said that the service would then offer firefighters re-employment but with inferior contracts, including longer hours.

But the service now says the proposed new duty systems would not require any firefighter to work more than the 42 hours per week which they are now contracted to do.

The statement said: “Currently firefighters who work on the day crewing duty system get paid to work 42 hours per week, on average, although they only work 35 positive hours per week, on average, at station or in the community.

“For the remaining seven hours per week they are on-call at home and are only required to respond to the station within five minutes - the same as an on-call firefighter.

“The service is asking its firefighting personnel to work those seven hours positively on station or in the community as well, which then provides enough extra capacity to increase the crewing levels at those stations from four personnel to five - the primary reason why the service are making the changes in the first place and something the FBU has actively campaigned for.”

The service says the new proposal is the result of 12 months of extensive and constructive consultation and negotiation between all parties, which would see investment in more full-time firefighter posts - offset by a reduction in the current number of supervisory manager posts - with firefighters working more flexibly to maximise the efficiency of the duty systems.

The main reason for introducing the new systems is to put crews of five back on full-time staffed fire engines across the two counties, at no extra cost to the service.

At the fire authority meeting on Wednesday, the authority supported the new system, whilst trying to reach a collective agreement before March 1.

“Should an agreement not be reached by March 1, a process to make a start to new contracts will be commenced,” says the authority.