Fury as retained crews miss out on jobs

SUFFOLK fire chiefs were criticised this week after it emerged dozens of the county's existing retained crews had been told they 'were not suitable to be a firefighter' during a recruitment drive for full-time posts.

SUFFOLK fire chiefs were criticised this week after it emerged dozens of the county's existing retained crews had been told they 'were not suitable to be a firefighter' during a recruitment drive for full-time posts.

The Retained Firefighters Union (RFU) is seeking urgent talks with brigade chiefs after 34 retained firefighters failed to make it past the first stage after applying for a number of full-time positions within the county.

Only 13 retained firefighters made it to the second stage of the application process out of the 47 in total who applied.

Those who were rejected - many of whom have been working as retained firefighters for years - were left furious after receiving an email from Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service which said: 'Your responses on the application form indicate that you are not suited to be a firefighter at this time.'


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Retained firefighters, who often have other jobs but are 'on call' to respond to emergencies, play a crucial role in Suffolk.

Out of the county's 35 fire stations, 28 are retained which includes those in Aldeburgh, Eye, Hadleigh, Woodbridge and Sudbury.

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Adrian Mason, brigade secretary for the RFU, said he was seeking a meeting with brigade bosses to discuss the recruitment process.

He also criticised Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service for the email it sent to those retained firefighters who did not make it past the first stage of the application.

'I think it was a fairly crass mistake putting an emailed letter like that out,' he said. 'The brigade was fully aware that some of the people applying were retained firefighters and it would not have taken much to send out a letter to them. It was a fundamental error that could easily have been avoided with a little thought.'

He added: 'We have been contacted by a couple of members over the full-time recruitment which we are looking into at the moment. We are also looking at the process itself and making sure that it is fair for the firefighters.'

One retained firefighter who was unsuccessful last night said many felt let down and demotivated following the recruitment process.

'It is a bit of a blow really when you have got years of service going in at 2am and 3am and you have got commitment and loyalty and then you receive an email saying that you do not have the correct skills and attributes', said the firefighter, who wanted to remain anonymous.

'I understand that not all the retained firefighters can go through into full-time employment but the situation that some people are saying is that retained firefighters are very difficult to recruit because not everybody wants to be on a 24-hour buzzer system, and so therefore in some way perhaps the fire service have saved themselves the hassle because if they promote any of us from within the brigade they lose us from the retained section.'

Gary Phillips, deputy chief fire officer said: 'The first stage of the process is a sift of the application forms and at this stage all personal details are removed to ensure fairness. 47 of our retained firefighters applied for full-time posts and 13 have gone through to the next stage. Our retained firefighters provide a valuable service. We sincerely apologise for the standard letter which our retained firefighters received to inform them that they had not gone through to the next stage, but unfortunately their written applications were not the strongest received.'

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