December 5 2013 Latest news:
Friday, November 1, 2013
Firefighters in Suffolk and north Essex are set to go on strike tonight as Bonfire Night celebrations begin.
Dozens of stations across the region will be short of crews after talks between the Government and fire bosses broke down following crisis pension talks.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will stop work between 6.30pm and 11pm tonight and 6am and 8am on Monday.
Mark Hardingham, chief fire officer for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We are prepared to deal with the further strikes which the Fire Brigades Union has announced. Once again we will implement our contingency arrangements, which will enable us to deliver a reduced service.
“The first strike date falls on the Friday before Bonfire Night. This is also just before Diwali and it also falls in the half term period, so we are advising people to take extra care with fireworks, bonfires and candles.”
Crews in Essex will also be taking action with fire chiefs urging motorists to take care during rush-hour periods.
Divisional officer, Neil Fenwick, said: “Crews deal with hundreds of road incidents every year. They make up a huge part of the work that we as a fire and rescue service do, so by being more careful, and driving more slowly, motorists can make a real difference to reduce the calls we face during the strike period and keep the county safer.
“Our message to motorists is, be safer, be slower, be vigilant. By slowing down and driving more carefully, motorists can help make the county a safer place.”
The union said it was led to believe that the Government was willing to offer a guarantee that firefighters whose fitness levels declined with age would not face being sacked. But fire service employers had confirmed this risk does exist for firefighters under the new pension arrangements, which has seen the retirement age change from 55 to 60.
FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “It is ludicrous that, after two years of negotiations, the Government has still not sorted out this mess.
“Firefighters are keen for these issues to be resolved through discussion, but the Government won’t even listen to its own evidence which highlights that the schemes are unworkable and unaffordable. Firefighters want a pension scheme that takes account of the hazardous nature of the job, is affordable and workable for them and for the taxpayer.
“We hope this brief strike will mean the Government returns to negotiations so we can agree a sensible way forward.”
The FBU said it has timed the strikes so that celebrations on Bonfire Night and the Saturdays before and after November 5, which are the most popular times for firework displays, can take place.