Firefighters in Northampton say a new standard issue T-shirt is an insult to the service’s identity at a time of low morale.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says its members are up in arms about the recent new uniform being issued to frontline staff to wear underneath their protective fire gear.
Not only does the black T-shirt come with a ‘police’ tag on it, but it says the shiny material is uncomfortable in high temperatures and the zip at the top has the potential to overheat and burn the wearer.
Northamptonshire County Council - which sets the budget for the county’s fire service - says the uniform is not a hand-me-down from the police force as some had speculated and says the FBU’s claims of dissent among staff are unfounded.
But a spokesman for the Northamptonshire FBU branch said the uniforms are “insulting” and another sign of the county fire service’s identity being eroded as it begins to work more closely with the police.
He also said some feel the design of the T-shirt is impractical.
“Some of the guys are telling me they are just sitting there and sweating,” he said.
“Another concern is that while I am at work, I am not allowed to have rings or piercings as they will overheat. Yet these T-shirts have a metal zip.
“We are going to end up with people getting exhausted and scolded in those things.”
In June, Northamptonshire’s police and crime commissioner Stephen Mold launched plans to take over control of the county fire service budget.
Mr Mold, who was elected on behalf of the Conservatives in 2016, said the police and fire services would continue to operate independently if the move were to go ahead from April, 2018.
He stressed that there were no plans to join the branding of the police and fire services and Mr Mold said efficiencies would be made by the sharing of buildings and back-office functions.
But the recent issue of police T-shirts to firefighters, The FBU says, is a worrying sign of things to come.
A spokesman on behalf of Northamptonshire County Council and Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service said the T-shirts were chosen by staff and have been fully trialled.
He said: “Northamptonshire firefighters are being issued brand-new modern wicking fabric T shirts that are better suited to the work of a firefighter than existing T shirts.
“The new shirts were chosen by staff following evaluation trials. Currently they are plain as they are used as an undershirt, but in future they will replace the current top-shirt and will feature fire and rescue service branding.
“They are procured through a national framework agreement which is also used by police forces because that provides best value for money, helping maintain funding for front-line services.”