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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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Up to 100 Cumbrian firefighters set to strike this week

Up to 100 of Cumbria’s 600 firefighters are poised to take part in a 24-hour walkout.

Dave Burn photo
Dave Burn

But fire chiefs in the county insist they WILL be able to cope with any emergencies.

The first round of action from 9am on Thursday will see firefighters carry out the first 24-hour walkout since the strikes began.

A second strike will be held from 10am until 5pm on Saturday.

It has come about after a row between the Fire Brigades’ Union (FBU) and the Government over pensions intensified.

Ministers want to raise firefighters' retirement age from 55 to 60 and increase their pension contributions but union leaders say this is “unworkable”.

Dave Burn, chairman of the Cumbria branch of the FBU, said: “Enough is enough now – the Government is refusing to talk to us and we have been backed into a corner.

“It’s frustrating and disappointing and none of us want to take this action but this is the culmination of three years of negotiation.

“Any decision to strike is difficult and the fact that it is a 24-hour walkout is largely irrelevant.

“Our objective is simply to get [fire minister] Brandon Lewis to come back to the table and talk to us but he is refusing to do that.”

Ninety four of the county’s 600 operational firefighters were involved in the first day of the last round of strikes last month.

The second day saw 96 take part and 97 walked out on the third day.

Mr Burns said he expected all the FBU members from Cumbria who took part last time to walkout this time round.

However, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service says it is prepared for the action and has contingency plans to provide sufficient cover.

Emergency calls will be answered as normal and incidents where life is considered to be in danger will be prioritised.

The service is calling on the public to help cut the risk of fire, drive with extra care, and avoid dialling 999 unless in a genuine emergency.

A spokesman said: “Fires can start for a variety of reasons, from cooking being left unattended, to electrical faults or candles being placed too close to furnishings.

“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 Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service has been able to attend and deal with incidents where an emergency response was required so we’d urge the public to show the same vigilance again and help the strikes pass off safely.”

The FBU says that as well as the two strikes, firefighters will refuse to carry out any voluntary overtime.

Union officials met fire minister Brandon Lewis on Tuesday but talks broke down.

The Department for Communities and Local Government accused the FBU of not being serious about finding a resolution.

A spokesman said: “The Government has made clear that a way forward can be reached, but not under the shadow of industrial action, which only serves to damage firefighters' standing with the public.”

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