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Monday, 22 December 2014

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Firefighters set to strike over pension age

THE “vast majority” of Cumbrian firefighters – including Copeland crews – could join a national strike next week in a row over pensions.

Uniformed staff from Whitehaven, Egremont, Frizington and Seascale who are members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), along with their county colleagues, are considering joining a national strike from noon until 4pm next Wednesday.

Les Skarratts, FBU regional secretary for Cumbria, said: “It is an absolute disgrace it has come to this, but Cumbria firefighters are left with no alternative but to take this strike action to defend their pensions.

“The government have decided to increase our working life for all firefighters until we are 60 years old. I am sure the people of Cumbria agree with us that to have 60-year-old firefighters climbing ladders to save families from fires is simply dangerous.”

He added: “We are angry that the government seems to want conflict rather than negotiate a settlement and I firmly believe the communities we serve share our anger.”

Mr Skarratts said around 85 to 90 per cent of uniformed staff across the country are members of the union, and Cumbrian figures reflect this. He said: “Membership right across England and Wales has increased because firefighters have been so incensed by this pension dispute. A lot of people, including Cumbrians, have joined the union to fight this.

“Every single person in the union can strike. I think the vast a majority of uniform staff within Cumbria are considering it.”

Cumbria County Council says there are four full-time crew members, with 10 on-call, scheduled to work at Whitehaven fire station next Wednesday, nine on-call at Frizington and nine on-call at Egremont. Five crew members are scheduled to be on-call at Seascale.

The county council is unsure how many staff will take part in the industrial action.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) will be operating a reduced emergency response during the strike and it is urging people to keep themselves safe.

While 999 calls will continue to be answered as normal, incidents where life is considered to be in danger will be prioritised.

A spokesman for the service said that it will try to attend all emergency calls, but there will be occasions when life is not considered to be at immediate risk – such as calls to small fires and automatic fire alarms – where there may be a reduced or even no response.

Cumbria’s deputy chief fire officer Ian Cartwright said: “We have been working on putting contingency plans in place for some time in order to maintain fire and rescue service capability during any strikes, but we’re also asking the people of Cumbria to help us out by taking extra fire safety steps to reduce the risk of a fire breaking out in their home.

“Fires can start for a variety of reasons – 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.”

More than 50 per cent of accidental house fires attended by the fire service start in the kitchen, so people are asked to take particular care when cooking.

Mr Cartwright added: “Our highest priority during industrial action will be to respond to those crucial calls where a life may be at risk or someone needs to be rescued. If we respond to low priority calls then those most in need could be at risk. A low priority call could be to someone who is locked outside their house or where debris has fallen in the road.”

Have your say

I agree with Danny in that people of 60 should be able to carry out all the duties of a fire fighter. If they can't pass a fitness test, they should be found a job they can do. But I also think that employers have got no right changing the conditions of workers contracts of employment, including the agreed pension terms, without adequate compensation being paid to the employee.

Posted by David Scameron on 25 September 2013 at 18:35

Steevo,

There's no such thing as 'firemen' anymore, they are known as firefighters and this has been the case for many years.

This is because the workforce is now made up of male and female employees.

This would indicate you have little (if any?) knowledge of the fire service and I would therefore question the rest of your comments!

Posted by simon on 25 September 2013 at 13:29

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