Fire crews’ strike passes off safely
5:30am Saturday 14th June 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
A 24-hour strike by firefighters which lasted through Thursday and into yesterday morning ended without any serious incidents.
Ten Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service crews walked out during the national action in a dispute with the Government over pensions in the latest of a series of strikes stretching back to last year.
Across the county there were 20 call-outs which were handled by on-call staff although none of them were serious.
In Swindon there was a bin fire at the Orbital Retail Park, which was out when crews arrived and a number of false alarms, including one at a shop in The Parade, in the town centre.
The Fire Brigades’ Union believe the changes to pension contributions mean firefighters could lose out on up to £4,000 a year and the raising of the retirement age from 55 to 60 could leave many struggling to pass rigorous fitness tests.
The FBU is concerned that firefighters may not be able to pass the fitness tests due to injury, meaning they might subsequently be sacked and therefore be eligible for their pension until they reached retirement age.
During the strike, on-call firefighters were used and fire engines were moved to secret but more strategic, locations to make sure adequate coverage was provided.
Prior to this week’s action, Chief Fire Officer Simon Routh-Jones had asked people to take care and yesterday he thanked the public.
He said: “This was the longest strike that we’ve had to contend with but, thanks to the outstanding support of our on-call firefighters who don’t belong to the FBU, we were able to maintain a good level of cover across Wiltshire and Swindon for the full 24 hours.
“My thanks go to them, and also to our local communities for being extra vigilant and keeping safe. “I hope that the Government and the union can now find a way to resolve their differences, so that this industrial action can be brought to a close.”
The dispute has been going on for several months but the FBU have said if the Government does not start negotiations then more strikes are likely to take place.
A further strike is planned to take place during the day next Saturday but the FBU are hoping it will not come to that if the government start up talks again.
Brent Thorley, the South West Secretary, said: “The strike was well supported by our members and by the public as well.
“What we are hoping now is the government get the message that we are standing strong over this and not backing down. “There is another strike planned but if the government call us for meaningful talks then we will happily postpone because it is not something any of us want to do. “There are a number of options we have put to the government to consider but they have not come back to us with answers which is a concern.”
Next Saturday’s strike will start at 10am and last for seven hours.
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