Herts firefighters expected to strike again as national union continues pensions fight

Hemel Hempstead fire fighters take part in a national strike in a row over pensions, September 25 2013.
Hemel Hempstead fire fighters take part in a national strike in a row over pensions, September 25 2013.

Firefighters will strike again over government attacks on pensions, on the same night as the Herts force holds its annual achievement awards.

The Fire Brigades Union has announced a strike in England and Wales lasting five hours, between 6.30pm and 11.30pm, on Saturday, October 19.

It is expected Herts firefighters will again support the action, after they took part in a four-hour strike on Wednesday, September 25.

It continues the row over changes to pensions, which will see all firefighters’ retirement age raised to 60 regardless of when they entered the service.

There was no emergency cover in any of the Dacorum fire stations during the previous walkout – a kitchen fire in Hemel Hempstead had to be attended by the nearest available crews who sent one engine in place of the expected two.

Next Saturday’s strike will coincide with the Hertfordshire Excellence, Achievement, Recognition and Thanks – or HEART – awards run by the county fire and rescue service.

Cabinet member for community safety at Herts County Council Richard Thake said: “While we recognise that there are strong feelings on both sides of this national dispute, strike action in a key public service like this can only be to the detriment of Hertfordshire’s residents. We are disappointed that further strike action has been announced and we hope that there is a speedy resolution to this dispute in the interests of all concerned.

“Our contingency planning has worked well so far and fortunately there were no serious incidents during the first strike. We have been preparing for the possibility of a second strike and have contingency plans in place. In the event that the strike does go ahead, we will have fewer resources available, but we will respond to all serious incidents. Always call 999 in the event of an emergency.”

Chief fire officer for the county Roy Wilsher said: “We are disappointed that another strike action has been announced as it appeared some progress was being made to resolve the dispute. Hertfordshire is a very safe county and it’s unlikely that you will be involved in a fire or an accident.”

According to the union, the government’s own figures have shown that thousands of firefighters could face the sack without access to a proper pension because they are getting older.

A recent government review found that over half of current firefighters between the ages of 50 and 54 are no longer able to meet fire and rescue service fitness standards for fighting fires. Beyond the age of 55, two thirds fail to meet the standards.

Union general secretary Matt Wrack said: “We had hoped our first strike was enough to show government that firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions.

“We hope this second strike will mean governments will be willing to discuss the full range of concerns that firefighters and the general public have expressed.

“However, more strikes cannot be ruled out if that’s what it takes to protect public and firefighter safety from these ludicrous attacks.”

{http://www.hertsdirect.org/services/commsafe/commprotect/hfrs/natfirestrike/Click here for advice on staying safe throughout the strike.}