West Yorkshire Firefighters to stage fresh strike over pensions

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West Yorkshire firefighters will be amongst those in England and Wales staging a fresh strike in their bitter row with the Government over pensions.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union will walk out for five hours from 6.30pm on Saturday October 19 following a stoppage last month.

The decision relates to an on-going trade dispute between the FBU and the Government over proposals to introduce a new pension scheme for Firefighters to replace the two current pension schemes that most operational personnel are members of.

A resolution can only be achieved at a national level as the dispute is not between the West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority and its staff.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service says it is committed to protecting public safety at all times, and has developed contingency measures to provide the best possible fire cover with the resources that are available to communities across the county during strike periods.

Simon Pilling Chief Fire Officer for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “We remain confident in our contingency plans after they were tested, and proved to be successful, during the last period of strike action in September. A reduced emergency response will again be inevitable during this next strike action, however, we do our very best to provide effective services throughout.”

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescues Service will be asking everyone, including members of the general public and business communities to play their part in preventing fires and other emergency incidents taking place.

The strike will take place during the very busy period of Saturday evening and therefore the service asks people to be extra vigilant and careful with regard to the occurrence of fires and other emergencies, the majority of which are preventable, as the Fire and Rescue Service will not be able to provide its normal emergency response capability during periods of strike action.

Firefighters in Scotland will not be taking industrial action following an offer on pensions from the Scottish Government which the union said was enough to prevent a strike “at the current time”.

The FBU argues that changes to pensions and the retirement age will see thousands of firefighters lose their job “simply for getting older”.

The union also maintains that firemen and women pay some of the highest pension contributions in the UK at almost 13 per centof their salary, with further rises due next year.

Mr Wrack added: “If governments in Westminster and Cardiff are willing to discuss these matters seriously, we would be happy to meet tomorrow or any day early next week and can provide a venue if required.”

London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “We are as prepared as ever to deal with this next round of strike action. It’s a shame that further action is being taken, but our contingency plan will kick in and we will be ready to deal with emergencies.

“There will be 27 fire engines based at strategic points across London, ready to provide an emergency back-up fire service. They won’t deal with minor incidents like bin fires or automatic fire alarms, but will attend serious emergencies like large fires and road traffic accidents.

“Once again, our advice is to take extra care to prevent fires at home. Simple steps like ensuring your hob is switched off and cigarettes are properly extinguished can make all the difference.”

Labour’s fire spokeswoman on the London Assembly Fiona Twycross said: “Firefighters are being asked to work until they are 60 and then have part of their pension taken away if they are unable to physically cope with the demands of the job.

“This is despite the Government’s review, which said that two-thirds of firefighters will have to retire because of ill-health when they are 55, thus losing part of their pension. This is fundamentally unfair.”

Labour said the changes were happening against a backdrop of fire station closures and job losses in the capital.