Firefighters stage fresh strikes

Firefighters are on strike again today
Firefighters are on strike again today
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Firefighters will mount picket lines again today as they stage a fresh 24-hour strike in their long-running row with the government over pensions.

Members of the Fire Brigades Union in England walked out at 9am for their 48th period of industrial action since the dispute flared.

The union said that after three years of discussions, firefighters still faced a stark choice of being sacked or having their pension severely reduced.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has today reminded people to take extra care while the strikes are ongoing.

A statement said: ‘The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has called a period of industrial action, starting from 9am on December 9 until 9am on December 10.

‘During this time, we will continue to respond to 999 calls and provide emergency cover across the county.

‘However, we will be running a reduced service and response times may be affected.’

The union attacked the Westminster government, saying it had presented evidence which had created political opposition to controversial changes to pensions.

The coalition was accused of pressing ahead with a scheme which was ‘unfair and unworkable’.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: ‘Firefighters in England are reluctantly calling further strike action as a direct result of the Westminster government’s failure to listen and negotiate over pensions.

‘Firefighters are asking the Westminster government to immediately open genuine negotiations to resolve this dispute. They should also hold a House of Commons debate to fully scrutinise the legislation and there should be a parliamentary vote on the regulations.

‘We are not going to give up or go away. Firefighters will fight for however long it takes to secure a fair pensions deal. This dispute will not end as long as the regulations remain unchanged.

‘It is sickening that the only part of the UK where the fire minister refuses to engage in genuine negotiations is England. We cannot accept that firefighters in England will be penalised simply because the Westminster government refuses to consider the evidence or even read its own reports on the risks to firefighter fitness related to ageing.

‘We have won the argument on this issue for the past three years. We face a government which refuses to negotiate or even to listen to reason. Therefore this fight will carry on.’

Penny Mordaunt, fire minister and MP for Portsmouth North, said the strikes damaged the reputation of the fire service.

She said: ‘This strike action is completely unnecessary and we are disappointed by the FBU’s decision, which does nothing but damage the good reputation of the fire and rescue service.

‘The government has worked hard to give firefighters one of the most generous pensions in the public sector.

‘The scheme that is currently before parliament provides greater ill-health and death benefits than the Fire Brigades Union’s preferred approach and I believe that the approach we are using will be fairer on all, supporting those wishing to work longer – something absolutely essential if the firefighters’ pension scheme is to remain sustainable.’