FIREFIGHTERS across the Portsmouth area have begun a 96-hour strike in support of nationwide action in their pensions fight.
Fire Brigades Union members in England walked out at 6pm tonight, with the strike ending on Tuesday evening - the day before Bonfire Night.
The FBU has accused the government of refusing to put forward any new offer despite two months of talks.
Fire Minister and Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said the strike action was ‘completely unnecessary’ and damaged the fire and rescue service’s ‘good reputation’.
Members of the union took strike action in August in a dispute over plans to make firefighters work until they are 60.
It was the first national walkout for a decade. Union officials say that under the government’s proposals, firefighters will have to work until they are 60 instead of 55, pay more into their pensions and get less in retirement.
The industrial action which has taken place over the past 18 months has seen fire authorities spend millions hiring contractors to cover for striking FBU members.
There have been 46 separate periods of strike action during that time. The FBU said it expected about 36,000 firefighters to take part in the coming walkout.
Hampshire residents are being urged to attend organised firework displays this weekend as firefighters begin their four days of strike action.
With the action coinciding with Halloween and Bonfire Night celebrations, the public are being advised to attend organised events to reduce the chances of unwanted emergencies and allow the fire service to focus its reduced resources.
Assistant Chief Officer Neil Odin, head of community safety at Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: ‘Leave the fireworks and the bonfires to the experts this weekend and attend one of the many fantastic displays being organised around Hampshire.’
He said retained firefighters would be providing emergency cover.