UNION bosses have warned the public that firefighters in Barnsley could strike as soon as February after they chose to reject a five per cent pay hike.

A ballot - organised by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) - closes on January 30 and strikes could commence as soon as a week after.

If a strike is held, it would be the first of its kind since pension action between 2013 and 2015 and the first on pay since 2003, with firefighters set to follow postal workers and ambulance drivers.

The FBU revealed last week that chief fire officers are paid an average pay of £148,000, with the highest being £206,000 - over six times more than an ordinary firefighter.

There is a chief fire officer for each of the UK’s 48 fire and rescue services, with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue currently headed by Barnsley-born Chris Kirby.

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Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union general secretary, said: “Firefighters and control staff, working under senior management, are being forced into a ballot for industrial action.

“They have rejected a five per cent offer, with inflation currently at 10.7 per cent.

“After a decade of below or at-inflation pay settlements, we have had reports of firefighters and control staff being forced to foodbanks and struggling to pay their bills.

“At the same time, some fire chiefs are also trying to persuade firefighters and control staff to step back from industrial action, to simply shut up about salaries that are several times smaller than their bosses.

“It’s insulting and stinks of hypocrisy - chief fire officers are not worth six times more than firefighters, it was the latter who were called key workers during the pandemic delivering vital services including moving the bodies of the deceased.

“Firefighters and control staff are being left with no other choice but to take action.”