SIPTU members in the Retained Fire Services are to ballot for industrial/strike action following a directive issued in January by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government under its “Keeping Communities Safe” (KCS) initiative. According to SIPTU Sector Organiser, Brendan O’Brien, the directive makes recommendations in relation to retained fire-fighting crewing levels which pose a threat to public health and safety. He said: “We are extremely concerned that the department is seeking to push through reductions in fire-fighter crewing levels which could jeopardise the health and safety of the public who rely on this critical emergency service, as well as of fire-fighters themselves. The KCS Good Practice Note is effectively a licence for local authorities to break national agreements which set out the minimum crewing levels for fire-fighters, and is unacceptable under any circumstances. “The department has repeatedly failed to provide any assurance that the proposed reductions in crewing levels will not threaten the safety of the public or firefighters, despite numerous requests by SIPTU. We have now reached a point where there is no option but to ballot our members in the Retained Fire Services for industrial/strike action. “We are calling upon the Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, to intervene in order to ensure that his department does not proceed to implement these measures.  In the meantime, we remain available and willing to meet with the minister to discuss our concerns.” SIPTU represents over 1700 of the 2000 retained fire-fighters employed by local authorities across the country.