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Firefighters consider national strike action
11:30am Friday 6th September 2013 in Local News
FIREFIGHTERS are preparing to go on strike on September 16 and 17, in a row over pensions, it has been revealed.
A leading member of the Essex Fire Authority says 40 fire engines could be in service across the county on the strike days, down from 70.
A total of 78 per cent of Fire Brigades Union members voted in favour of strike action last week.
It will be the first national strike in more than a decade.
The Essex Fire Authority member, who did not want to be named, revealed the details after a meeting yesterday.
He said: “My understanding is 40 to 50 fire engines will be working, when usually there are 70.
“However, I think the people of Essex will be safe during the strike–there aren’t many places in the country as well prepared to deal with this.”
Unions are angry about planned changes to pensions that will see the age of retirement increase from 55 to 60.
The fire authority member said: “The Government is mad for asking firefighters to climb up ladders at the age of 60.
“Firefighters will be struggling to maintain their fitness levels as they get older and this could put the lives of residents at risk.
“Do we really want those who are nearly 60 being on the frontline, when they struggle with the physical demands in a dangerous situation?
“The Essex Fire Authority is totally against this plan.”
Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said it hoped a solution can be negotiated as soon as possible to halt any potential strike action. It added resilience arrangements were in place to provide fire cover if the strike goes ahead.
The Fire Brigades Union and its Essex branch have not confirmed when the strike will take place.
Riccardo La Torre, chairman of the union’s Essex branch, said: “No member of the union wants to strike and we hope it won’t come to that.
“No decision has been taken and no date has been announced.
“Rather than strike, we would rather spend time lobbying the Government for a resolution for this dispute –a strike is still avoidable.
“We produced a lot of evidence which said that 92 per cent of firefighters will not be able to reach the required fitness standards at the age of 60 and this has been ignored. We cannot compromise on safety.”
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