SWINDON firefighters held the first of three strikes yesterday, highlighting the ongoing national dispute between the Fire Brigades’ Union and the Government over pension reforms.

This is the latest industrial action by firefighters protesting against plans for them to pay higher pension contributions, work into their late 50s before retiring and face being be sacked if their fitness declines as they get older.

Yesterday crews across the country protested between noon and 5pm and the Drove Road crew said they were pleased by the support they received from the public while picketing.

Andy Edmonson, who is based at the station, said: “I think it is important for all firefighters to strike and show the displeasure which is out there. “Everyone wants this to come to an end and for the Government to reach an amicable agreement with us. “We’ve had lots of strong support from the people walking by and a lot of motorists have beeped to back our cause which we appreciate.”

A second national strike is taking place between 2pm and 2am today so the Drove Road station will not be offering the usual extra parking to Swindon Town supporters going to the match at the County Ground against Rotheram.

The latest industrial action will come to a close after a third strike between 10am and 3pm tomorrow.

During the strikes, Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is providing a reduced emergency response with fire cover available throughout the region.

Yesterday, a crew from Cricklade and one of the service’s resilience appliances attended a fork lift truck fire, caused by a battery fault, at South Marston Industrial Estate.

There were also false alarms in Brookdene, Haydon Leigh and premises in Faraday Road, Dorcan.

Chief fire officer Simon Routh-Jones has called for residents to take extra care during the strikes. Speaking before the industrial action, he said: “While the action is ongoing, we will still respond to 999 calls but it may take us a little longer than usual to arrive. “We would therefore urge everyone to take extra care to stay safe, which will hopefully reduce the number of calls we receive.”

Yesterday, an email purporting to be from the Government’s Minister Brandon Lewis to fire authority chiefs, said that there had been a pension offer ready to send to the FBU since March 19, which they’ve chosen not to put forward.

Brent Thornley, the FBU’s south west secretary, said: “The strike action is important as a way of making the Government take us seriously and put a pension proposal in front of us.

“Until we see it we cannot make a decision on it and bring the strike action to an end.

“We are not going out demanding more or better conditions, we just want decent talks with the Government and to see the offer. “It is interesting that during the floods the Government was giving us regular praise for our work and now that has been dealt with communications seem to have gone quiet again.”

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