Firefighters strike in pensions row

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Firefighters in Northamptonshire went on strike for four hours on Wednesday (September 25) in a battle over pensions.

The Fire Brigades Union said almost 80 per cent of its members voted in favour of industrial action.

Striking firefighters at Corby last month

Striking firefighters at Corby last month

In the county about 59 per cent of firefighters are FBU members.

During the action Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service only attended confirmed property fires and other incidents where lives were at risk, such as road traffic collisions.

The county council’s cabinet member for public protection, strategic infrastructure and economic growth, Cllr Andre Gonzalez de Savage said: “This is a testing time for fire and rescue services across the country and we hope that a resolution will be achieved soon, although we respect the right of staff to take part in industrial action.”

Chief Fire Officer Martyn Emberson said: “We have 50 per cent of our appliances available this afternoon and we have taken steps to change our model of delivery during this time.

“This includes re-prioritising the incidents we attend and pausing some of the prevention work we would normally do, to ensure we are focusing our efforts and resources on responding to incidents where emergencies are confirmed.

“We have also re-allocated resources to ensure the main risk areas have cover in place to be able to respond to emergencies.”

A war of words was raging between the Government and the FBU as the strike went ahead in England and Wales.

The union is campaigning against changes it says will mean firefighters will have to work longer, pay more into their pensions and receive less in retirement.

The move will also see firefighters having to work on frontline duties until they are 60, the union argued.

But the Government maintained that the changes were fair and would still give firemen and women one of the most generous pensions in the public sector.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This initial strike is a warning shot to Government. Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions. Governments in Westminster and Cardiff have simply refused to see sense on these issues.

“It is ludicrous to expect firefighters to fight fires and rescue families in their late 50s. The lives of the general public and firefighters themselves will be endangered.

“None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety.”