Fire brigade union announces two further strike dates in run up to Bonfire Night

Fire Brigades Union official Neil Sowden with striking firefighters at Stranton Fire Station in Hartlepool last month

Fire Brigades Union official Neil Sowden with striking firefighters at Stranton Fire Station in Hartlepool last month

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FIREFIGHTERS are set to go on strike again as a bitter row over pensions rumbles on.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has announced that walkouts will take place across the country on Friday, November 1, between 6.30pm and 11pm and then on Monday, November 4, between 6am and 8am.

It is due to a national dispute surrounding pension arrangements between the FBU and the Government.

The union said the Government and fire employers had failed to offer any firm guarantees on jobs or pensions as a result of changes to the pension age from 55 to 60.

The FBU postponed a five-hour strike last week after saying that the Westminster Government and fire employers had shifted their position and recognised that firefighters faced losing their jobs and a “large chunk” of their pensions under new changes imposed in April.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “The FBU has been very reasonable, but we are now faced with broken promises and those in power evading their responsibilities.

“The Westminster Government has created this mess, but it is refusing to clear it up. It now recognises the problem, but it won’t provide the legal and financial guarantees firefighters need to ensure they have a job and an unreduced pension in the future.

“Firefighters face the sack towards the end of their career and the loss of their pension. That can’t be right. The employers promised to tackle the issue of firefighters facing the sack for failing fitness tests last week, only to say they can’t offer any guarantees this week. That is simply not the way to run a public service.

“The Government is now making threats to withdraw some of the other concessions they have made this year.

“Their own report shows most firefighters cannot work beyond 55. They are trying to bludgeon firefighters into an unworkable pension scheme. We are not prepared to be bullied.

“Firefighters don’t want to go on strike, but we are left with no option when the Government and the employers refuse to deal with the problems of their own making.”

The union held a four-hour strike last month in England and Wales and the latest walkouts will be held in the run-up to Bonfire Night.

Cleveland Fire Authority chiefs say it has contingency arrangements in place to provide emergency cover during periods of disruption, including having fully trained and experienced, professional firefighters supported by auxiliary firefighters.

Ian Hayton, chief fire officer at Cleveland Fire Brigade, said: “We are disappointed that a negotiated settlement still has not been reached in this national dispute. The safety of our communities is, and always will be our number one priority, and I can reassure the public we will continue to provide a professional emergency response throughout any period of disruption.

“We will respond promptly to all emergency calls received and the community volunteers who have come forward to be trained as auxiliary firefighters will play a large part in that response.”

He added the auzillaries have received further training and have more experience after covering during the last strike on September 25.

The Brigade received only two calls during the last period of disruption.

Mr Hayton said: “These were dealt with in the same way we deal with all calls at other times. We anticipate that we will be busier during these strike periods as they are across times of day and days of the week that usually attracts greater demand for emergency response services.

“We are asking members of the public to take extra care in order to reduce the risk of a fire in their homes, businesses and communities. Throughout next week we will provide advice, support and guidance on how to stay safe in the press, online and distributed across Cleveland, so please take some time to access and read this potentially lifesaving information.”

Safety advice is available at www.clevelandfire.gov.uk/safety.