Now that misguided MEPs have decided to end the UK "opt out" of the European Working Time Directive, what future for the Retained Fire Service in Scotland and the UK? Of the 67,951 personal employed within the UK Fire and Rescue Service, 18,827 work on a retained basis, covering almost two thirds of UK fire stations. Actual UK landmass covered by the Retained Duty System (RDS) equates to 91 per cent.
Given the immense contribution to emergency response provided by RDS, we see it as vitally important to maintain the opt-out. Without the significant contribution of the RDS the fabric and function of the UK Fire and Rescue Service as we know it would collapse overnight.
Almost all RDS fire fighters have some form of primary employment (which in itself averages 40 hours per week) adding two hours training time and a minimum of two calls per week together would easily exceed the 48 hour period on a regular basis. No-one forces us to spend our spare time in this way; we regard ourselves as paid volunteers. We do it because we want to not because we have to.
The RFU (Retained Firefighters Union) has been actively lobbying MEPs and MSPs to retain the opt out. Unlike another union who dismissed the claim and insisted fire cover would not be compromised, and at the same time actively urging their members to lobby to get the opt out scrapped.
Our members are extremely concerned that the EU will "legislate their jobs away" with dire consequences for the communities they are committed to serving. Like them, I am at a loss to see why legislation is proposed to take away freedom of choice.
National Officer (Scotland), Retained Firefighters Union