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Friday, 29 August 2014

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Cumbria's firefighters to join national public sector strike

Cumbrian firefighters are set to join in a national strike of public sector workers.

Fire strike photo
FBU members from Green Watch at Carlisle East on the picket line at the walkout in September

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has announced its members will take part in the walkout as part of a long-running protest over firefighters’ pensions.

Teachers, civil servants and local government workers are also expected to be involved in the industrial action next Thursday.

The strike has been organised by unions – including Unison, the GMB and Public and Commercial Services union – to protest at a public sector pay cap brought in 2012 and still in place.

Graeme Higgins, brigade secretary for the FBU in Cumbria, said: “From the FBU point of view it is certainly something that we will be taking part in, though it won’t be for exactly the same reasons as other public sector workers.”

The particular issues for the FBU concern government plans to raise the retirement age for firefighters from 55 to 60 and increase the amount of money they have to contribute to their pensions.

The FBU has expressed concerns that older personnel may not pass fitness tests and could lose out on pensions.

Mr Higgins said: “What the Government is asking firefighters to do is pay more and get less.”

This strike is to last from 10am to 7pm. The FBU is set to announce further action later this week.

Matt Wrack, FBU general secretary, said: “The FBU has wanted to settle our dispute for a long time, but the Government at Westminster is simply not listening. We are therefore proud to take strike action alongside our colleagues in other unions on July 10.

“The fact that this government has united so many workers to take strike action against them is a testament to the failure of their policies. They are destroying our public services and wrecking the lives of millions.”

“If they won’t listen and won’t negotiate then this is the result — and they should face more of the same if necessary,” he added.

A spokesman for Cumbria County Council, which is responsible for Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, said the authority would not know how many of Cumbria’s 600 firefighters would take part in the strike until the day of action.

However, he pointed out that on the last strike day, June 21, 80 took part.

He added: “We are prepared for the strike action and contingency plans will be in place to enable us to maintain a fire and rescue service capability like we have during previous walkouts. We’ll continue to provide the best service we can with the resources available.

“While 999 calls will be answered as normal, the service’s response to incidents where life is considered to be in danger will be prioritised so we’re again asking the people of Cumbria to help us out during the strike by taking additional safety steps to reduce the risks of fire, driving with extra care to avoid the possibility of road traffic collisions and not calling 999 unless it’s a genuine emergency.”

He also called on people in Cumbria to be vigilant about the risks of fire.

“Fires can start for a variety of reasons, from cooking being left unattended, to electrical faults or candles being placed too close to furnishings,” he said. “The best advice we can give is for everyone to ensure they have a smoke alarm in their home and to check the battery is working at least once a week.

“During previous waves of industrial action the service has been able to attend and deal with incidents where an emergency response was required.”

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