3 February 2023
Northern Ireland‘s Interim Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, Andy Hearn, has called on the Fire Brigades Union to agree special arrangements for Northern Ireland Firefighters should a national strike go ahead.
In other UK Fire Services, deploying the Military to help keep people safe during a potential strike period is a key contingency. The Interim Chief is asking the Fire Brigades Union Executive Council, in recognition of the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK, to agree to the principle of derogation with NIFRS in the event of strike action. NIFRS is seeking this special arrangement which would enable NI’s Firefighters to respond to certain categories of high risk calls and negate the need for the use of the Military.
The appeal comes following the recent outcome of the Fire Brigades Union Ballot, which saw 94% of those Firefighters who voted in NIFRS voting in favour of strike action.
Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) Interim Chief Fire & Rescue Officer Andy Hearn said:
“I recognise and fully respect the outcome of the ballot. I wholly support a pay increase for our Firefighters and absolutely recognise the right of Firefighters to participate in peaceful strike action. However, as an organisation we have a legal responsibility to prepare for strike action and a legal responsibility to deliver our statutory duty in keeping people safe.
“Ahead of the Fire Brigades Union National Executive Council meeting next week, I am calling for all Council members to fully appreciate and recognise the unique circumstances here in Northern Ireland, and agree to special arrangements to negate the need for Military resources during any period of strike action.
“I strongly believe it is in the interest of all stakeholders, especially at this time in Northern Ireland, to pursue special arrangements for striking Firefighters in Northern Ireland. I will continue to engage with the Fire Brigades Union and I am committed to finding a solution to the benefit of both parties.
“Should agreement not be reached with the Fire Brigades Union Executive Council next week, a request for Military Aid to Civil Authority (MACA) will reluctantly remain a viable option to be progressed through further discussions with our sponsoring Department, the Department of Health (DOH).
“I want to reassure the community in Northern Ireland that we are doing everything we can to resolve this national issue. I am asking for the Fire Brigades Union to work with us in recognition of the unique situation in Northern Ireland and support us in doing what we can to help keep people safe during any strike period.”