Firefighters stage first strike in more than a decade

Firefighters stage first strike in more than a decade

Reporter:

James Preston

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Firefighters stage first strike in more than a decade

The strike action followed a ballot of Fire Brigades Union members last month over 'unworkable' changes to working conditions.

Firefighters walked out of stations across the region for their first strike in more than a decade today.

At noon, members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) left their station as they joined firefighters across the country in four hours of industrial action as part of a dispute with the Government over changes to their pension scheme and conditions of service.

At Maidenhead Fire Station, off Bridge Road, a group of 18 firefighters kicked off the strike by leaving together in uniform and marching to the roundabout to display an FBU banner to honks from passing motorists.

Iain Seurre, FBU branch representative for Maidenhead, said the strike had received '100 per cent' support from members at the station, with a number of off-duty staff joining the action.

He added the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) had informed members they had 'good contingency plans' and added there was 'no danger to the public'.

As part of its preparations, the RBFRS has been offering advice on how to take care when cooking, using electrical appliances and smoking, while encouraging residents to only call 999 in a genuine emergency.

The service warned response times for some incidents may be slower, but resources and plans were in place to deal with 'life critical' incidents.

The strike followed a ballot of FBU members last month, which resulted in a 78 per cent vote in favour of strike action over  changes, which include raising the normal pension age to 60, described by the union as 'unworkable'.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU said the action was 'a warning shot to the Government' while Mr Seurre added: "Everybody's feeling is one of anger. We are hoping the Government might start to listen and start to talk."

Fire Minister Brandon Lewis said the Government had listened to union concerns and added 'firefighters will still get one of the most generous pension schemes in the public sector'.

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