FIREFIGHTERS in Hereford and Worcester are threatening to go on strike in a long-running dispute about new duty shifts.

The Fire Brigades Union has issued an ultimatum to Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service saying it has until Friday August 9, to agree go back to the old system.

The service tried to introduce a new system of 10-hour day shifts earlier this year, which angered staff.

Currently, full-time firefighters work the Day Crewing System on-duty from the station or on-call – four days and nights on and four days and nights off – and the union wants to stick to this shift pattern.

If the union does not get its way, it will ballot Herefordshire and Worcestershire firefighters over strike action.

But the fire service says it has been rebuffed after trying to reach an agreement with the union via the conciliation service ACAS.

Andrew Scattergood, FBU West Midlands regional secretary, said: “From the start, we’ve been reasonable and open to discussion, but we’ve had no reciprocal response from management, despite assurances that discussions would be conducted in good faith.

“We want to find a solution to ensure that firefighters are safe at work and are able to properly protect their community, but the Chief Fire Officer has refused to engage and seems interested only in imposition rather than proper negotiation. We’re disappointed that it’s come to this, but we have no choice but to lodge this dispute.”

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “We won’t stand by and let heavy-handed management trample on the rights of firefighters.

“The arrogance is appalling. Firefighters in Hereford and Worcester will have the full support of the FBU and of firefighters across the country.”

A fire service spokesman said: “We have been trying to change systems for the last three years to allow more firefighters to be available to crew fire engines but this has been consistently rejected by the FBU. It is a complete surprise and is really disappointing to receive this ultimatum now, as in the last month we have asked the FBU to join us in referring this issue to ACAS. Unfortunately, that was rejected and so we have also offered to make a joint referral to ACAS. Industrial action will benefit no-one, so we urge the FBU to join us in referring the issue to ACAS.”