THE latest round of fire strikes passed with no major incidents, despite crews leaving their posts for three consecutive days in a dispute over pensions and retirement plans.
Industrial action was called by the Fire Brigades’ Union over the Bank Holiday weekend, with a five-hour walkout on Friday afternoon and a 12-hour strike overnight on Saturday. This was followed by a further strike between 10am and 3pm yesterday.
While crews at 10 of Wiltshire’s 24 fire stations were striking, on-call firefighters from Swindon, Royal Wotton Bassett and Malmesbury, amongst others, were on duty to respond to incidents.
Plans to raise the retirement age to 60 and increase pension contributions to 14 per cent were at the centre of the disagreement between firefighters and government, Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said the union was disappointed to have had to launch new strike action but was left no other choice.
“Yet again firefighters have shown the strength of their anger over Government attacks on their pensions and have been united in standing up for a fair, workable and affordable deal,” he said.
“It’s very disappointing that we’ve been forced to hold another three days of strikes but nothing will deflect firefighters resolve when the future of their families – and the fire and rescue service itself – is at stake.
“Just like the current bout of industrial action, future strikes could be avoided simply by the Government honouring current pension promises and releasing proposals for the future that reflect the discussions we’ve held over the last three years and take account of the evidence we have presented about our occupation.
“Surely it’s now time for their games to stop and common sense to prevail?”
On Friday, Wiltshire Fire and Rescue was called to a fire involving a forklift truck at a warehouse in South Marston and a false alarm in Faraday Road, Dorcan.
On Saturday, firefighters attended a home at The Prinnels following reports of a gas smell coming from a property.
The alarm was later raised in the town centre after smoke from a bonfire caused concerns.
A Swindon area resilience crew rushed to the scene, which turned out to be a false alarm.
Finally, yesterday the emergency services attended road traffic collision at Junction 17 of the M4 where a car had collided with a signpost on the roundabout, as well as two false alarms in Eldene and Gorse Hill.
A Wiltshire Fire and Rescue spokesman said everything had been put in place to ensure a swift response during the strike. They said: “Crews at ten of Wiltshire’s 24 fire stations were unavailable to respond to incidents during the strike, but the service had contingency plans in place to maintain cover across the county using on-call firefighters and alternative locations as appropriate. As a result, there were 11 appliances available ‘on station’ and a further three ‘on call’.”