Further fire service strikes begin

Haywards Heath Fire Station. Pic Steve Robards SUS-140513-091354001
Haywards Heath Fire Station. Pic Steve Robards SUS-140513-091354001

The first 24-hour firefighter strike starts at 9am today (June 12) in response to an ‘unworkable’ pension scheme.

There will be a second strike on June 21 from 10am-5pm whilst firefighters will not carry out any voluntary overtime, which is routinely needed to maintain fire cover, between the beginning of the first strike and 9am on June 22.

A spokesman for West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said they will still be responding to emergencies so people can dial 999, but the service will have fewer resources.

“We will be positioning those resources around the county to provide the best achievable cover on the day so we are asking people to help reduce the number of emergencies occurring by taking extra care. Advice is available on our webpage www.westsussex.gov.uk/fire and FRSs are using the hash tag #takeextracare to promote this via social media,” the service explained.

They are neutral on issues surrounding the strike.

Haywards Heath brigade chair and Fire Brigade Union (FBU) member Mick Cambers said: “It’s an ongoing national thing to do with our pensions, and connected to recent cuts in which we get no overtime amongst other things.

“There will be 240-300 striking in West Sussex, everyone’s involved, it’s a national issue.”

The strike is the longest yet in the three-year campaign.

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, said: “The minister has decided to bury his head in the sand, but he must accept that firefighters simply will not give up fighting for their futures and our fire and rescue service.

“It is as ever a difficult decision for us to take, but the only way for us to resolve this unnecessary and costly dispute is for the government to start listening to reason.”

The two strikes will be the thirteenth and fourteenth over pensions.

Firefighters typically now pay £4,000 a year from a £29,000 salary, and the government will impose another increase in 2015.

The FBU say more members are considering leaving the pension scheme as a result of its decreasing affordability.

Under the government’s proposals, firefighters who retire before the age of 60 will have half of their pension taken away.

The Union say the government are ignoring their own report which found that large numbers of firefighters would be unable to maintain operational fitness until 60.

The West Sussex County Council County Local Committee (CLC) for Central Mid Sussex will hold its next meeting at Ansty Village Hall on Tuesday June 17 at 7pm.

Before the meeting, from 6pm, West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service will be holding an exhibition and information session on the proposed reconfiguration of the service.

People are invited to attend if they would like to find out more information about the changes that are on the cards.