'Accident waiting to happen'

Unite slams Capita as it imposes cuts to fire fighters at Clyde naval bases

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Unite members working for Capita at HMNB Clyde Coulport and Faslane have slammed the decision by management to move forward with cuts to fire crews alongside the lack of promised new fire vehicles and updated equipment as ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

Capita management reduced the specialist fire safety crew by eight positions which represents a cut of 15 per cent at the nation’s nuclear naval bases on the Clyde. Capita won the contract in 2020 for fire response services from the Ministry of Defence. Unite understands Capita are set to seek local authority support from nearby fire stations in an effort to ‘back fill’ the specialist safety response despite these fire crews lacking the specialist training required at the naval bases.

Unite believes the cuts seriously impair the abilities of the onsite fire crews to do their jobs properly, particularly in relation to incidents that would involve wearing breathing apparatus. Capita in response to repeated concerns raised by Unite have stated that they intend to mitigate any safety risks due to the cuts through an ‘investment in new technology to reduce fire risk’. Unite can confirm that both naval base stations have not received any new fire vehicles, nor has Capita revealed the details of the promised new technology and new training ahead of the job cuts despite repeated attempts by Unite for clarity.

In addition, due to breathing apparatus procedures, crews with only five staff would be unable to commit wearers at certain incidents without back up from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) who normally provide incident assistance at the nuclear naval bases. Unite understands that this ‘back-up’ service would be difficult to deliver due to SFRS’s current policy regarding radiation incidents and incidents on board submarines, which means that their staff who attend these incidents would be unable to deliver the same firefighting and rescue actions that the current onsite specialist firefighters are trained to deliver.

Onsite fire crews sign-up to accept emergency exposures and are fully trained to carry out interventions to save life, and to prevent catastrophic conditions at incidents involving radiation. However, this is not the case for SFRS staff who are not trained to the same levels as the Clyde naval bases onsite crews.

Unite industrial officer Debbie Hutchings said, “Capita’s cuts are an accident waiting to happen make no mistake about that and it is not scaremongering on our part. This private company is effectively jeopardising the safety response capabilities at the Clyde’s nuclear naval bases as part of a cost saving exercise. We really have to ask ourselves whether this country is content to leave the nation’s fire response capabilities to a company hell bent on saving money through cuts which compromises safety.

“This is not about the initial attack team dealing with small fires as Capita are claiming but the overall safety on the Clyde not only for the workers but local communities,” she added. “Unite’s members on the Clyde have voiced their despair over the job cuts through a consultative ballot and we now intend to move forward with an industrial action ballot in order to bring Capita back to its senses, which it seems to have completely lost.”

By Andrew Brady

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