SIPTU retained fire fighters are commencing a ballot for industrial action aimed at resisting the introduction of Department of Environment, Community and Local Government plans to implement cuts to fire services that will endanger fire crews and local communities. At a meeting this morning (Thursday, 7th February) in Liberty Hall, Dublin, SIPTU retained fire fighters from all 34 fire services across the country endorsed the position of their National Committee to reject the planned changes to working practices contained in “Keeping Communities Safe”, a policy document published today by the Department of the Environment.SIPTU Retained Fire Fighters will now commence a ballot for industrial action, including strike action, aimed at resisting the implementation of the proposals contained in this document.National Retained Fire Service Chairperson, John Gavigan, said: “In launching this policy document today, the Department of the Environment is displaying a total disregard for the lives of fire fighters. This policy will lead to further reductions in services, particularly in rural areas, and the closure of fire stations. This is following a similar policy of closures of rural post offices and Garda stations.“This policy document has been drawn up by an anonymous group of people within the Fire Service National Management Body with the singular objective of cutting costs. The implications of these measures will be to fundamentally undermine the locally based fire and emergency services which have served the Irish public over generations.”SIPTU Sector Organiser, Michael Wall, said: “These policies have been clearly drafted by those with an exclusive interest in cost regardless of its implications for safety and those living in rural areas, villages and towns.  No risk assessments of these proposals have been presented to fire fighters in order to comply with basic health and safety requirements. The decision to reduce crew levels by 20% and to change many automatic fire calls to discretionary calls will not only delay response times but also increase the risk to fire fighters and the general public.SIPTU has at all times been willing to engage with the Department in relation to the role of the fire service and changes to its working practices. However, decisions have been taken by the Department without consultation and without input from active fire fighters.”