FIREFIGHTERS across the borough could be given Travelodge-style bedrooms as part of cost-cutting plans to keep them on call at stations for 24 hours.
Plans are being considered to adapt stations in Wigan, Hindley, Atherton and Leigh, to allow staff to spend 12 hours on duty – then the next 12 on-call in the specially-designed rooms.
They would receive just 30 per cent of their normal pay for their ‘bedroom hours’ – but must respond to emergency calls.
The proposal would see beds return to fire stations in the borough for the first time since they were scrapped four years ago and replaced with reclining chairs.
Fire chiefs say the plans would save huge sums while providing a more efficient service.
But union bosses branded them a Dickensian threat to public safety – and said firefighters would in effect be receiving less than the minimum wage.
Paul Fogerty, chairman of the Manchester branch of the FBU, said: “Without a doubt this is a way of cutting the number of firefighters.
“Over the last five years we have seen about 200 posts go and we estimate that another 200 will go over the next three to four years as the fire authority deals with the budget deficit.
“On the face of it, getting another 30 per cent of your wage looks attractive.
“But in reality, for that final 12 hours, crews will be working for less than the minimum wage.”
Kevin Brown, Regional Secretary of the FBU, said: “It appears Dickensian that – despite a dividing wall – firefighters will be on duty or available for work all hours.”
Firefighters currently on a 15-hour night shift have to work from 6pm to midnight.
“After midnight they can take rest periods when appropriate but must also continue to work until the end of their shift at 9am. They work two nights followed by two days.
Under the new scheme, they would work four consecutive ‘24-hour’ shifts.
Training, fire safety work, and some inspections are done during night shifts if crews are not responding to emergency calls.
The new system would see them on duty for 24 hours.
They would get paid their normal rate for the first 12 hours during the day, and 30 per cent of their pay for the next 12 hours when they were in their en-suite rooms, on standby.
Families and partners would be allowed to visit but not stop over.
The move comes with the brigade set to shed hundreds of jobs as a result of government spending cuts.
The system already operates at two stations in Lancashire where it has saved £400,000 a year at each station.
County Fire Officer and Chief Executive Steve McGuirk said: “The stations chosen to adopt this system in Lancashire were consistently identified over a number of years as having less night-time incidents than elsewhere.
“This made Day Crewing Plus an ideal approach to emergency cover.
“The benefits are significant and sustainable - reduced staffing costs helping to keep council tax bills low, there is no reduction in the service and response times remain excellent.”
Chairman of the Fire Authority Councillor Paul Shannon said: “The service is looking at a variety of crewing arrangements based on local intelligence.
“So the number of fire engines, crew and the way they provide cover will differ depending on the area and the risk.”