Voluntary fire service sounds alarm because of European pay rules

The fire brigade were out in force. Photo: DutchNews.nl
Photo: DutchNews.nl

The volunteer fire services in the Netherlands could become a thing of the past because of European rules on pay, the AD reported on Wednesday.

Some 80% of Dutch firemen are volunteers and paying them a proper wage according to European legislation, would be too costly and compromise the status of the firemen, the paper said.

The Dutch fire service consists of over 19,000 volunteers and 5,000 professional firemen and rural fire stations are completely manned by volunteers.

Local authorities, who are financially responsible for the fire stations, have already said they do not have the money to pay a completely professional force.

Labour law professor Leonard Verburg said doing nothing about the situation is not an option. ‘There are two solutions. All firemen are given the same employment conditions or the system is reformed completely with different groups on different pay,’ he told the paper.

The matter is now being looked into by a task force and justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus said he expects to have a workable plan in December.

Frans Carbo of the FNV union said a solution to the problem would be difficult to find, not because of pay conditions, but because of the volunteering.

‘Volunteers like the job and its heroism. If they were to go part-time it would create an obligation. Not all volunteers want that. They could have a business, or their employer would complain,’ he said.


‘We are not doing this for the money,’ Marcel Dokter of the volunteer firemen’s union told the paper. Volunteers are paid between €2,000 and €3,000 euros.  ‘We want to help safeguard society, preferably in our own towns,’ said Doker.

‘If we are given a contract it’s no longer volunteering,’ he said. ‘We want to go back to basics, where you carry a bleeper and you can be at the fire station in three minutes. I am the commercial director of a business. My boss gives me space now but that would stop. He won’t want me to have two bosses.’

The union, which has 6,000 members, was not invited to take part in the government talks.

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