SPECIALIST firefighters at HM Naval Base Clyde say they are willing to "take the full road towards industrial action" after "potentially dangerous" plans for job cuts at the home of the UK's submarine service were revealed.

Private firm Capita, which won the contract to provide fire response services at the Faslane and Coulport bases from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) last year, is seeking to reduce crew numbers by 15 per cent.

Eight positions would be lost, four at each base, with the company planning to use retained firefighters from local stations as cover.

However, an HMNB Clyde firefighter has told the Advertiser that any reduction to the current 56-strong workforce could have disastrous consequences - both at the military sites, and in the wider Helensburgh and Lomond area.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said: "We're not convinced that two nuclear bases should be relying on part-time firefighters.

"We're not saying we're out every 10 minutes on a call - because of the environment we work in everything has got to be health and safety conscious.

HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane

HM Naval Base Clyde at Faslane

READ MORE: Naval base workers set to strike as union urges Babcock to 'step back from the brink'

"Every building within Faslane and Coulport has the most up-to-date fire safety systems you can get. The last thing they want is a fire.

"We could be in here for months at a time and we'll get fire calls but it's usually false alarms.

"But we always thought that we were here for the day that the s*** hits the fan.

"Faslane has more buildings now than it's ever had, they've spent millions of pounds and have more staff now. How can you have more buildings and more people in there, but you're cutting the fire cover? It doesn't seem right."

Capita's intentions to use local authority support to "back fill" firefighter positions have been branded a "recipe for disaster" by the Unite union, which says safety at Faslane and Coulport could be compromised as a result of the move.

Capita won the contract to provide specialist firefighting services for the MoD last year

Capita won the contract to provide specialist firefighting services for the MoD last year

Debbie Hutchings, Unite industrial officer, said: “The decision by Capita appears to have been brought forward purely on a cost basis and the unrealistic expectation that the local authority can back fill these cuts, which is just not possible because specialist training is required at the nuclear naval bases.

"We believe these plans are worse than short-sighted and in fact potentially dangerous, which is why we are asking Capita to abandon this reckless plan and get back to negotiations."

Unite is already engaged in a separate industrial dispute at the naval base with Babcock over pay and bargaining rights related to the MoD's Future Maritime Support Programme.

The Advertiser's source said: "The savings Capita would make wouldn't go back into the public purse, they'd go right into Capita's back pocket.

"Our tax money pays for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, so we'd be paying for a fire service that's going to work for Capita to help them out a hole.

READ MORE: Union slams private contractor over plan to slash firefighting jobs at Faslane and Coulport

Capita is responsible for providing specialist firefighting services at defence sites across the UK

Capita is responsible for providing specialist firefighting services at defence sites across the UK

"They're already getting money on one hand but they're wanting to earn more and they're going to use the public purse to make it.

"It doesn't sit right."

The source added: "From our point of view, the guys on the Clyde, we're up for a fight. We would definitely take it the full road, industrial action.

"In all my time working this is the worst thing I've had to deal with. We've had plenty of fights with employers over the years but guys actually losing their jobs is the worst thing, you've got to think about families, mortgages and everything else.

"We're not giving up one job never mind eight."

RNAD Coulport

RNAD Coulport

READ MORE: Union's members back Babcock strike action at Clyde naval base

Toni Giugliano, SNP candidate for the Dumbarton constituency at May's Scottish Parliament election, offered his full support to the firefighters at the base.

He said: "The Ministry of Defence must immediately step in to ensure all risk assessments have been carried out with regards to this decision given it is set to drastically reduce the strength of a number of fire stations - potentially putting lives at risk.

"Firefighters at the bases have additional mandatory courses that they must complete each year - it's a no brainer that this expertise must be retained."

A spokesperson for Capita said: “We have conducted a thorough review of fire risks at Faslane and Coulport, which considered many factors before we put forward recommendations - including the investment in new technology we are making that will reduce fire risk and improve safety.

The Unite union says Capitas plans include bringing in local authority cover from fire stations nearby when required

The Unite union says Capita's plans include bringing in "local authority" cover from fire stations nearby when required

“The report’s recommendation to adjust resourcing levels was ultimately approved by Ministry of Defence. This followed four successful confirmatory exercises by our on-site fire station crews.

“We are committed to the delivery of better fire risk outcomes for the Ministry of Defence, its personnel, and our firefighters.”

An MoD spokesperson told the Advertiser: “The Defence Fire and Rescue contract aims to modernise the defence firefighting force with new vehicles, technology and training to provide a safer environment for both the firefighters and those they protect.

“Any further enquiries should be directed to Capita.

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