West Midlands firefighters and emergency control operators are to ballot for strike action in an row over new contracts - which could include picking up patients from hospitals.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says contracts introduced by West Midlands Fire Authority mean new firefighters will have to take on work outside the agreed role of a firefighter.
The news comes weeks after BirminghamLive revealed claims that firefighters had lost front-line staff and engines to fulfil ‘loss-making’ care contracts.
We told the West Midlands Fire Service had agreed a two-year contract with councils to respond to emergency call-outs from OAPs who have fallen at home, while one local authority is also paying for hospital patient transportation.
Firefighters and civilian staff can and have volunteered to take part in the flexible contract scheme, which can boost their wages by 25 per cent.
Incredibly civilian staff who take part in the scheme, including HR and cleaners, are being paid the same salary as firefighters signed up for the sceme.
The FBU announced the ballot for strike action this morning.
Andrew Scattergood, chair of the FBU in the West Midlands, said: "The new contracts give management an unhealthy amount of power to dictate the work firefighters do.
"The so-called 'Labour led' fire authority is creating a two-tier workforce between those who are contracted to do any work and those who have contracts that the public would expect a firefighter to have. It is a classic divide and conquer strategy.
“Firefighters are not only angry at the contracts being issued, they are gravely concerned about the management culture where staff are routinely ignored and their concerns dismissed.
"Our members do not want to take industrial action but they cannot and will not accept a two-tier workforce. It is not the right of management to change contracts on a whim.”
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: “Strike action is always the last option that any firefighter wants to take but sometimes it is necessary.
"Firefighters in the West Midlands have made it absolutely clear that these contracts are unacceptable. Senior managers at the service need to think long and hard now if having firefighters out on strike is in their interest.
"The political leadership of the fire authority needs to get a grip and step in before strike action takes place.”
The FBU aims to start the ballot for strike action in the week beginning April 30.
We previously told how sources claimed fire service employees had been told that the social care agreements would earn the cash-strapped Fire Service £2 million over three years.
But it is claimed just £300,000 has been raised so far in 18 months, while some firefighters and engines have been taken off the frontline to take part in the schemes.
West Midlands Fire Service had defended the money-raising scheme and said: “While it may not be considered the traditional role of a firefighter, the service is evolving and changes need to be made to ensure we are meeting community risk where appropriate.”More to follow.