Almost 2000 part time fire fighters are to be balloted next week as to whether or not they should take industrial action over a long running dispute with local government officials over pay and conditions.

And as Navan and all other stations in Meath are staffed by retained, (part time), fire crews SIPTU official Brendan O’Brien has told Meath Live, ‘It will impact on Meath, and we expect the strike to happen we anticipate a strong mandate allowing us to take action.’

The fire service sense of grievance has been hardened by a letter sent to O’Brien from Eamonn Hunt the Assistant CEO of the Local Government Management Association, (LGMA), in which he states that during the term of the current public service agreement there will be no cost increasing claims and the agreement specifically preludes industrial action.

O’Brien said, ‘ Those remarks have really strengthened our members resolve, retained fire crew members get €22 per hour but only from when they arrive at the station on a call out and have to live within a certain distance of the station to ensure a rapid response time.

‘The minimum number of personnel required to attend a fire is six, two to go into a property on a search and rescue mission, two to remain outside to rescue them if anything goes wrong, one to man the pump and an overall commander, if there are not that many available the crew have to decide whether to proceed or wait for back up.

‘They have to make life or death decisions on the spot and lack of numbers is causing those kind of decisions to be made far more regularly as when the jobs are advertised nobody is applying any more because of the poor terms.

‘Last year the department of housing sent out a questionnaire to all our retained fire crews and the two major issues that emerged from that were lack of a steady income and lack of standard time off, the full report was published in January and we agreed to allow the LGMA until September to try and resolve those.

‘Septembers come and gone and nothings happened so we are taking the next step/

‘However I would like to reassure the public that we are responsible people and if, as is likely, the strike goes ahead measures to ensure adequate cover will be put in place.’