WORK has started on a £700,000 “Travelodge-style” accommodation block for firefighters as its crews move on to new 24-hour shifts.
The building will feature seven ensuite rooms, a living area and kitchen, and is being built next to the fire station in Princess Road, Seaham.
Once completed, it will allow County Durham Fire and Rescue Service to move the crew based at the station to a new shift pattern – called Day Crewing Plus (DCP) which it says will save it money in light of Government cuts and work more flexibly.
The project will save it £300,000 a year – with a similar scheme at Newton Aycliffe saving the same amount – and the building will be complete in September.
The service has previously said 10 jobs will go in time through retirement and those who leave the organisation.
The new shift pattern involves officers working an average of 42 hours a week, but attend shifts of 24 hours at a time, split into 12 hours at work and 12 hours on stand-by in the living quarters.
Five crew members will work on a self-rostering basis from a pool of 14, rather than four watches of six. As it stands, the same-sized teams work shifts of a nine-hour day or 15-hour night.
The service has previously said those who do no remain at Seaham as part of DCP will move to other stations, with Seaham and Newton Aycliffe chosen as the system suits those which have a lower number of calls, particularly at night.
It aims to maintain the same number of appliances and hit its response time targets with funding it is now allocated.
Area manager Andrew Mackay said: “Staff are really looking forward to working the new system, with more people requesting to work it than places available, which resulted in a selection process being run.” The accommodation block will also have a cleaning and storage area, with enough parking available for the workers on site, and the project to include a landscaped courtyard.
The Fire Brigade Union has previously said while facilities will not be lost and it understands savings must be made, it has raised concerns about the effect the change in working could have on family life, saying the shift pattern “goes back to draconian and Victorian ages.”