Demand for firefighters fitness training

DEMANDS from union bosses to give retained firefighters three hours fitness training every week at a cost of nearly �1million have been branded “ridiculous”.

James Hore

DEMANDS from union bosses to give retained firefighters three hours fitness training every week at a cost of nearly �1million have been branded “ridiculous”.

The call for the sessions for 500-plus retained officers in Essex has infuriated fire chiefs who say on-going negotiations over conditions are getting nowhere.

The Essex Fire Brigades Union (FBU) wants retained crews to be given four 45-minute fitness sessions per week on top of the hour they receive for operational training.

But the county's chief fire officer, David Johnson, said the move was an “own goal” that the costs of it would put daily fitness sessions for full time employees, including sports, in jeopardy.

He said: “Constructive feedback would be more welcome than new, ridiculous demands which only seem to have been put forward as a spoiler to create unnecessary frustration to management and engender friction between our retained and wholetime firefighters.”

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He said the new demand was “completely out of the blue”.

“While we are getting nowhere with consultations on some very serious issues already on the table, the FBU comes up with a surprise new demand.

“We have absolutely no idea where it comes from - even if we could afford the extra �1m, the vast majority of our retained firefighters have other jobs and commitments and probably wouldn't be able to fit in four, 45-minute fitness sessions a week on top of the extra hour per week that we have given them for operational training,” he said.

Full-time crews get 45 minutes each day for sport and fitness, including volleyball, to help ensure fitness levels.

But last night Mick Rogers, Colchester firefighter and the FBU's membership secretary, said: “Mr Johnson won't put the running of the service on hold during the dispute, equally, it would be absolutely wrong of the FBU to put on hold any other concerns and problems that arise.

“The issue is the same for both full-time and retained firefighters because that we have to have satisfactory fitness levels when tested or risk being taken off the run.”

Mr Rogers said retained firefighters, especially those living in rural areas, struggled to keep their fitness levels up due to poor gym equipment and lack of access to it.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk