West Midlands firefighters yesterday agreed to press for a ballot on industrial action over reforms to their working practices.
More than 40 members of the Fire Brigade Union met in Handsworth, Birmingham, yesterday to discuss measures which could include a strike.
If the FBU's national executive council agrees the move, an overtime ban or work-to-rule could be introduced. Tony Nutting, the union's regional secretary, said there was also the possibility of an all-out strike.
He claimed management had refused to meet three recommendations agreed by the FBU's technical advisory panel.
These were a shift allowance for firefighters finishing at midnight or beyond; travel expenses for working at other stations, and ensuring the shift pattern does not affect their holiday entitlement.
Last week West Midlands Fire Service confirmed beds were being removed from fire stations, meaning firefighters working between 6pm and 7am would be unable to take a nap.
Mr Nutting said: "Since management brought in a new shift system it has caused no end of problems, but now it's collapsing around their ears.
"There have been several occasions when we've had 20 or more pumps off the roads because of staffing. Firefighters are often in the ' wrong' place because they're having to cover shifts at other stations.
" It's not right that engines from Warwickshire and Staffordshire brigades should be helping us cover incidents but that's exactly what's happening.
"This isn't just compromising public safety, it's compromising the safety of our crews."
If the union's NEC approves the ballot, firefighters could be taking industrial action by November. Mr Nutting added: "What that means we could implement workto-rule, an overtime ban, but it could honestly go to a full strike.
"Now it is up to the FBU's national executive council whether we go ahead with this action or not."
The West Midlands Chief Fire Officer, Frank Sheehan recently commissioned consultants to conduct a brigade-wide survey into staff morale, a move which has angered FBU members.