Striking firefighters say they have public support

Nigel McCullen''''Picture: Paul Jacobs (132628-2)
Nigel McCullen''''Picture: Paul Jacobs (132628-2)

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A firefighters’ leader says that they have the support of the public as they continue to hold strikes over changes to their pensions.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union took the decision to go on strike yesterday for the fourth time in recent weeks.

For four hours yesterday from 10am, crews from Cosham, Southsea, Havant, Fareham and Gosport walked out over a pension row.

The union called the strike over plans to raise the retirement age from 55 to 60.

It said firefighters forced to retire before 60 due to declining fitness could now receive about £9,000 a year in pensions.

It follows a strike in October and two more walkouts at the beginning of this month.

Nigel McCullen, chairman of Hampshire Fire Brigades Union, and a Southsea firefighter, said: ‘We had a picket line outside Southsea for the duration. We had good support from the public.

‘I think the public do understand what’s going on.

‘They don’t want firefighters in their late 50s coming to rescue them from fires. They understand that.

‘Most full-time firefighters were out today in support of the action.

‘There were an awful lot of firefighters at retained stations who walked out as well. They are vitally important in Hampshire.’

Mr McCullen added that he hopes the strike action will force the government to listen to their views.

‘The government have walked away from the talks,’ he added.

‘There are many issues that the government are shying away from.

‘We are trying to get them back round the table to talk about these issues that we have.

‘If a firefighter reaches 55 and can’t pass a fitness test through no fault of his own then he should be retired with a pension that he’s paid into.’

Assistant chief officer at Hampshire Fire and Rescue, Neil Odin, said: ‘We would like to thank members of the public for listening to our safety messages and not becoming complacent as we went through our fourth period of Industrial Action.

‘Operationally, we had on average 38 appliances available to us which is just over 50 per cent of our capacity and so we were well within our 20-minute response time when responding to incidents.’

A spokesman for Hampshire Fire and Rescue said: ‘The majority of our appliances were crewed by our retained firefighters and some of our operational staff not based on fire stations.

‘Fortunately there were no life-threatening incidents during this time period and it appears that the public has heard and responded to our safety messages.’