English Firemen’s Working Hours

English Firemen’s Working Hours

“The annual conference of the Association of Professional Fire Brigade Officers last month disclosed the fact that a most remarkable change is taking place in the British fire service without any upheaval or flamboyant methods of attracting public sympathy to the cause of firemen,” according to Fire, of London, England. “We have persistently pointed out that the sympathy of the public is always with the firemen when a good cause is properly expounded, and current events fully justify our optimism. But the most remarkable feature of the revolution, which concerns hours of service, is that there is not a great general demand for two platoons with time off. The firemen do not hesitate to state they do not want too much time on their hands, and instances were reported in which firemen in brigades with time absolutely free between hours of duty have answered fire calls when off duty and asked to be given work on the jobs without extra pay. This is fully in accord with the true British tradition, whether in the fire service or not, of being in the scrum on the right side when there is a fight going in the cause of humanity or justice. The British fire service is being reorganized unostentatiously but efficiently, and the firemen are thoroughly well content where new systems have been inaugurated. The increasing British fire station practice of letting each man have his own house or cottage on the fire station premises, not on the flats principle, but as an independent unit of the building, and having a separate entrance from a gallery, is primarily responsible, doubtless, for the satisfaction with which the new systems are received. The men are encouraged to feel that their homes are their British castles, and when off duty are not asked nor expected to salute their superior officers when encountered, although rigid discipline is maintained when on duty. The new service conditions are designed to reduce the working hours of the firemen and give more leave, but retaining them within call except on leave days; these are variants on the platoon time off systems, but meet the wishes of the firemen. Several towns have adopted the conditions outlined above with variations due to local conditions, but that organized by Firemaster Pordage, of the Edinburgh Fire Brigade, is typical. In order to adapt the continuous service system to 48 hours weekly he has increased the fire brigade staff 10 per cent., which permits of a working week of 48 hours by giving the firemen one day off in every six, i.e., a fireman starting duty on a Monday will get Saturday off and start again the following Monday (Sunday not counting as a working day). Every sixth week he will get three consecutive days full leave, i.e., Saturday, Sunday and Monday. He will put in 43 working hours weekly from 7 A. M. to 4 P. M. daily, time counting irrespective of work at fires after duty. The extra day every six weeks levels down to an average of 40 working hours per week. Disabled soldiers and sailors are, in addition to the 10 per cent, increase in number of firemen, employed to do the watch room work in two shifts from 9 P. M. to 7 A. M. and 12 noon to 9 P. M., the hours 7 A. M. to 12 noon being taken by the firemen. The weekly wages are now 57s. to 65s. inclusive of war bonus as settled a short time ago. The firemen are thoroughly well satisfied and prefer it to the 48-hour week.”

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