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Monday, 29 December 2014

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Cumbrian firefighters determined to thwart Government pension plans

The Fire Brigades’ Union says its members in Cumbria are more determined than ever to thwart the Government’s plans to reform their pensions.

Fire brigade pickets photo
FBU members outside Carlisle East Community Fire Station

Some 138 firefighters across the county – 68 full-timers and 69 part-time – took part in the latest national 24-hour strike, which ended at 9am today. Another strike is planned for June 22.

Senior officers provided emergency cover while fire chiefs issued a plea to householders to take extra care during the industrial action.

There was little for the on-call firefighters to deal with.

The most serious incident was in Carlisle, where a builder’s van burst into flames in Cross Street, off Scotland Road.

The flames spread to a nearby Citroën car and another vehicle.

Non-striking firefighters also rescued a pony trapped in a ditch at Bootle railway station, around 5.30pm, and dealt with a car fire at a caravan park near Ambleside in the early hours.

Dave Burn, the Workington-based chairman of the Cumbria branch of the Fire Brigades’ Union, said: “This dispute has been going on for three years.

“The turnout for this strike is as good as we’ve had and shows the strength of feeling among FBU members.

“Pensions are such an emotive issue – they’re our future. [Fire Minister] Brandon Lewis has provoked us into this situation. It’s a place where we don’t want to be but we have to stand up for what’s right.”

The Government argues that firefighters will continue to receive decent pensions. A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “The deal on the table is fair and gives firefighters one of the most generous pensions in the public sector.

“Nearly three quarters will see no change in their pension age in 2015. Under the new scheme, a firefighter who earns £29,000 will still be able to retire after a full career, aged 60, and get a £19,000-a-year pension.”

Fire chiefs are concerned that the latest round of industrial action coincides with the World Cup.

They believe there is a greater risk of kitchen fires as football fans, who may have been drinking, get engrossed in the action and leave pans unattended.

A spokesman for Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service said: “It’s vital that people take more care than ever to protect themselves during industrial action.

“With more than half of all accidental dwelling fires starting in the kitchen, this is where caution is needed.

“We’d urge people to be particularly careful during the World Cup if they’re preparing food well into the evening, especially if they’ve been drinking.

“Cooking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is a dangerous mix, and people will be tempted to do it when football is on.”

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