Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government, Mr Alan Kelly TD has welcomed the signing of an agreement between management and staff representatives on the implementation of the national policy document “Keeping Communities Safe” (KCS).
National policy for the provision of Fire Services in Ireland is driven and supported by the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management in the Minister’s Department, which also oversees and develops standards and the delivery of quality services by the Fire Authorities. In February 2013, the National Directorate published the “Keeping Communities Safe” (KCS) policy document which is the blueprint for the future direction of the fire service, aimed at delivering consistent, effective and value for money fire services in Ireland while continuing to reduce the risk from fires in our communities and prioritising the safety of fire personnel in their work.
In May this year, Minister Kelly established the Keeping Communities Safe Discussion Forum, under the Chairmanship of Mr Des Geraghty, in order to commence a discussion process to address the staff side’s outstanding concerns about aspects of the “Keeping Communities Safe” document and that would facilitate the reaching of an agreement that was satisfactory to all parties.
The Agreement signed today is far-reaching and provides for the replacement of the Consultative Committee element of the National Directorate’s original structure and the revision of the Technical Support Group working structures. Their roles are incorporated into a new Fire Services National Oversight and Implementation Group (FSNOIG) structure, comprised of employers and employees’ representatives.
“The new focus on oversight and implementation will facilitate enhanced communication between service management and staffing interests at national and local levels” said the Minister. “Furthermore, the engagement of recognised staff interest groups in a remodelled consultation structure, which will be overseen by the Fire Services National Oversight and Implementation Group, will ensure that all interests will be represented fully and fairly and included within all future service development and implementation” added the Minister.
Whilst the determination of national policy remains a matter reserved for national government, and compliance with relevant statutory obligations rests with local authorities, the enhanced working arrangements set out in this Agreement will ensure that future fire policy and service development and implementation is undertaken jointly with input from the recognised trade unions and implemented in a timely manner.
The Agreement was developed under the guidance of former SIPTU president Mr. Des Geraghty and his pivotal role in bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion was acknowleged and commended by the Minister. “I very much welcome the Agreement signed today and I would like to express my appreciation to Mr. Des Geraghty for his role in bringing to completion this balanced approach to managing change in fire services in Ireland”, said the Minister. “Furthermore I wish to thank all the parties involved for their efforts in reaching this Agreement which will ensure the effective provision of fire services in Ireland for many years to come, while at the same time improving safety for communities and fire fighters alike”.
The Minster also took the opportunity to pay tribute to Fire Services for their response to Storm Desmond. Minister Kelly said, “I wish to acknowledge the exceptional nature of the work being undertaken by the Fire Services in supporting the inter-agency response to the on-going flooding emergency affecting parts of the country and in particular their role in protecting homes and property from flooding and in assisting those communities worst affected”.
SIPTU Official Brendan O’Brien commented, “we welcome the Minister’s assistance which has facilitated this successful outcome for both our fire-fighter members and the public. This agreement will provide for the development of a modern, effective and efficient fire and rescue service”.
Peter Nolan, IMPACT National Secretary added, “IMPACT is satisfied that the new Forum will provide far greater capacity to deal with staff issues than the previous model”.