*Retained firefighters picketing in Shannon. Photograph: Joe Buckley

A PUBLIC PROTEST is to be held in Shannon this Sunday in support of the county’s retained firefighters.

From 12pm, members of the public will gather outside Shannon Fire Station in a show of solidarity.

For the last ten weeks around 2,000 retained firefighters nationwide, represented by SIPTU, have been engaged in rolling industrial action – with pickets placed across 200 retained fire stations. In the latest escalation in the strike, crew members in Clare and across the country are no longer communicating with local authority call centres except in relaying life saving information.

Clare’s firefighters currently respond to 840 calls on average each year, with 71% of the county’s force currently comprised of retained personnel.

Talks aimed at resolving a dispute over pay and conditions for retained firefighters are expected to take place at the Workplace Relations Commission.

Members of the retained service are part-time firefighters who are paid an annual retainer for being on-call. The Labour Court had recommended that their retainer be increased by between 24% and 32.7%. Under the proposals, a firefighter on an annual retainer of €8,870 would see it rise to €11,769. The main firefighters’ union, SIPTU, described the proposals as a major disappointment and members voted by an overwhelming majority to reject the Labour Court recommendation.

Shannon woman Michelle Hickey Legge who is the mother of a retained firefighter explained why they will be joining the public protest this weekend. “When the buzzer goes off, it wakes the household, we all hear it. The sound is piercing and fills you with an ominous sense of what my son is about to face. Death, trauma, life threatening injuries. Is it a fire, is it a car crash, is it a false alarm, what time will he come home, will he come home. Has someone else’s family member died.

“The buzzer doesn’t respect time, it doesn’t respect dates, birthdays, Christmas, family events, the buzzer is the boss, it cannot be argued with. There are no exceptions. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it is relentless. No sick pay, no mortgage, no planning, no structure. This is the reality of the life of a retained firefighter”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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