RETIRED firefighters in Scotland are being urged to volunteer to provide cover while members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) propose strike action, it has emerged.

The Fire Brigades Union has condemned the "divide and rule" tactics of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service which it attempt to break any potential strike action by firefighters across Scotland.

In a consultative ballot, FBU members across the UK overwhelmingly rejected a 5% pay offer, with a turnout of 78% and a reject vote of 79%.

The is now conducting a formal ballot on the offer which union leaders are recommending they reject.

Another ballot is expected to take place on strike action if firefighters refuse the offer.

The Scottish government has said pay for firefighters is negotiated through UK-wide bargaining arrangements.

However, it added after hundreds lodged a protest at the Scottish Parliament last monththat it had provided a further £9.5m this year to support fire service delivery and modernisation.

Now SFRS bosses have written to retired workers urging them to volunteer and provide cover on strike days.

The letter from deputy chief fire officer Stuart Stevens dated November 11, read: “The SFRS has a legal responsibility to provide an emergency response to protect the communities of Scotland. It is therefore essential that we plan for the impact of any potential action and develop contingency arrangements to ensure we continue to keep our communities safe and protect life.

“In order to ensure the highest possible level of preparation and contingency planning for this potential industrial action we are currently reviewing all options in order that, where possible, we can maintain provision of essential services and fire cover in line with our statutory duties.

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“SFRS are requesting assistance from recently retired employees who may wish to support our available uniformed officers to provide the highest possible level of cover during the proposed period of industrial action.”

Writing to retired members, the union urged them not to cross picket lines, saying political decisions have left each and every current and recently retired firefighter around £4000 worse off per year in real terms since 2010.

“We recognise the legal responsibility SFRS have to provide an emergency response during periods of industrial action however, whilst recognising that obligation, it is vital that members recognise that the use of resilience crews during industrial action undermines the effectiveness of firefighters fight for a fair and meaningful pay rise in the midst of a cost of living crisis, and potentially significantly prolonging periods of action for serving members.

"By volunteering to form part of a resilience crew you would be knowingly crossing picket lines.

"You already know how important it is to leave the Fire and Rescue Service in a better condition than you found it. Many recently retired members will have benefitted from FBU wins in the past over pay, terms and conditions and most recently pensions.

"Having spent your careers as firefighters you know only too well that no firefighter wants to take strike action and no firefighter wants to put communities at risk.

"We would urge you to support current firefighters and those yet to come, in their fight for fair pay, and we request that no former firefighter chooses to volunteer to undermine our members campaign for a meaningful pay rise by assisting the service to form resilience crews and instead joins our members on any future picket lines to fight for fair pay within our industry."

The demonstration outside Holyrood last month drew about 500 firefighters from across the country, most wearing their uniform jackets.

The union said the fire service had already suffered the loss of 1,000 members of staff, cuts to crewing levels and stagnation of pay.

John McKenzie the Scottish Secretary of the FBU said: "The FBU condemns in the strongest terms such divide and rule tactics being deployed, which amount to calling on retired firefighters to cross picket lines and undermine industrial action.

"Despite these efforts the FBU knows that instead of undermining serving firefighters' campaign for fair pay our retired members will instead join their former colleagues on picket lines in support of any future strike action they are forced to undertake.

"Instead of encouraging strike breaking, our employers should get back round the negotiating table with the FBU to negotiate a fair pay offer we can put to our members."