Fire crews ready for national strike
5:00pm Wednesday 4th September 2013 in Latest News
CONTINGENCY plans are being drawn up in case Wiltshire’s firefighters go on strike.
The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) announced on Thursday that 78 per cent of its members in England, Wales and Scotland voted for industrial action following a dispute with the Government over pension changes.
No date for a potential strike has been set but any action would need to take place within 28 days of the ballot.
Wiltshire councillor Graham Payne, the chairman of the Wiltshire and Swindon Combined Fire Authority, said: “The union has not made a decision on any date as of yet but our chief fire officer, Simon Routh-Jones, will make sure we are prepared for any eventuality as the public’s safety is our main concern.”
In preparation for a strike, the first since 2002, Cleveland Fire Brigade, which covers Teeside, has been training volunteers who could potentially tackle fires because the Army is no longer legally bound to step in and use the mothballed Green Goddess fire trucks, as they have done in previous strikes.
It is now the responsibility of individual fire authorities, although it is believed Wiltshire and Swindon Combined Fire Authority is not looking to enlist volunteers as it does not want to put their safety at risk.
The FBU’s South West branch hopes the Government will negotiate so the country-wide strikes can be averted.
Under the changes, from 2015, the Government plans to make firefighters work until they are 60 to get their full pensions rather than 55 and make them pay more money into a pension scheme.
Brent Thorley, FBU’s Wiltshire Brigade secretary, said: “We have spent two years engaging with the Government on this but they’ve just decided to ignore what has been said. The plans offer a danger to the public’s safety and we’ll also see more firefighters being asked to leave without their pensions because they aren’t fit enough, which isn’t right.”
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