Firefighters are to join thousands of other public sector workers in taking strike action today – a move supported by Labour MEP for the Eastern region Richard Howitt.
The long-running dispute about firefighters’ pensions will see a further day of strikes at the same time as a walkout by local government workers, teachers and civil servants over a range of issues, including attacks on pay, pensions and workloads.
The strike will last between 10am and 7pm and is being undertaken by Unison union members of Dacorum Borough Council, Three Rivers District Council and Herts County Council, as well as members of the Fire Brigades Union, for whom this will be their 15th campaign.
Pickets are expectedto be in place at major council offices and depots across the county, while rallies will be held in major towns and cities around the UK.
Mr Howitt, who represents Herts as part of his Eastern region constituency for the European Parliament, is supporting those striking in the county.
He said: “Conservatives cannot attempt to deny Labour claims of a ‘cost of living crisis’ when they have already cut the real wage of public sector workers by £2,200 since they came to power and now only offer the prospect of below inflation wage increases for the next four years.
“One in five workers in Hertfordshire are already paid below the living wage, despite the fantastic efforts of Labour-led councils to uphold it.
“Meanwhile the government allows free rein to bankers’ bonuses and cut taxes for millionaires and hedge funds, but only seeks to impose misery and hardship on people living on low pay and in poverty.
“Enough is enough.”
Addressing the strikers directly, he also said: “Today the whole community should understand that you are being forced to take part in this action, because public sector workers care most about the services you provide and the people you provide them for.
“None of us would ever excuse negligence in the vital work you undertake, but concerns about the treatment of elderly people in hospitals or adequate protection in children’s homes cannot be separated from whether there are sufficient staff and whether they are fairly rewarded for their work?
“You cannot drive up standards by driving down wages.”
Herts County Council says it had planned ahead to minimise the impact of today’s strike on council services, particularly those for vulnerable people.
It urged as many schools as possible to remain open as long as it is safe, but does not have any authority to compel them to have done so and schools are not obliged to tell the authority in advance.
Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue contingency arrangements are in place with ‘resilience’ crews on hand throughout the county, though residents are asked to take extra care during this and future periods of industrial action.
Always call 999 in an emergency, and click here for more fire safety advice from the county council.