Suffolk: Firefighters in Suffolk will go on strike next Wednesday in row over pensions

Crews have been called to a road crash near Colchester

Crews have been called to a road crash near Colchester - Credit: Archant

Firefighters in Suffolk will go on strike next Wednesday as a national row with the government over pensions rumbles on.

The strike was announced after nearly 80% of Fire Brigades Union (FBU) members voted in favour of industrial action in a ballot which ended earlier this month.

Chairman of the FBU in Suffolk, Andy Vingoe, said stations in the county were likely to be left with skeleton crews, however if there was a major emergency, plans will be put in place to deal with it.

He added: “Obviously the operational side of the fire service will be severely reduced.

“We will be out on strike and we won’t be taking fire calls. If there is something serious which threatens lives then we have plans in place but other than that, we won’t be responding.”

Chief fire officer for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, Andy Fry, said contingency arrangements had been prepared previously to the strike being announced, but he has asked people to take extra precautions during the period.

He said: “During a strike period, my advice to the public is to take even greater care to prevent fires from breaking out at home.

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“Simple steps like keeping a really close eye on cooking and making sure that cigarettes are disposed of properly can make all the difference. We always recommend installing a fire detector in the home to provide an early warning of fire.”

The strike revolves around proposals from the government to release full pensions to firefighters when they reach the age of 60, but a recent review found more than half of firefighters over the age of 50 could no longer meet fitness standards.

The FBU has claimed there are few areas where staff could be moved to within the service, meaning it could lead to hundreds of workers losing their jobs.

Matt Wrack, Fire Brigades Union General Secretary, said: “This initial strike is a warning shot to government. Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions.

“Governments in Westminster and Cardiff have simply refused to see sense on these issues.

“It is ludicrous to expect firefighters to fight fires and rescue families in their late-50s: the lives of the general public and firefighters themselves will be endangered.

“None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety.”

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