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Cornish firefighters on strike today
10:38am Wednesday 25th September 2013 in News
Firefighters across Cornwall are due to strike at noon today in a bitter row over pensions.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) will walk out for four hours from noon, the first national stoppage for a decade.
The union is campaigning against changes it says will mean firefighters will have to work longer, pay more into their pensions and receive less in retirement. The move will also see firefighters having to work on frontline duties until they are 60, the union argued. The Government maintained that the changes were fair and would still give firemen and women decent pensions when they retire.
Fire brigades have drawn up their own contingency plans to deal with the strike because military Green Goddess machines, which have been used as cover in previous disputes, are no longer available. They have been sold by the Ministry of Defence to countries including Malta.
As Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service are FBU members, strike action "may result in staff shortages", says the service.
Adding: "Over the past few weeks, Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service has prepared robust contingency plans to maintain minimum levels of cover for dealing with major fires, serious flooding or road traffic collisions etc.
"However, the reduced staffing levels mean that CFRS will not be able to respond to non emergency situations such as automated fire alarms from businesses or other non essential activities.
"CFRS is working closely with partners such as the police and ambulance services to ensure emergency services are maintained throughout any industrial action."
CFRS Chief Fire Officer Des Tidbury said: “This is a national dispute between members of the Fire Brigades Union and the Government over proposed changes to pensions and is not directed against Cornwall Council or Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service. While the industrial action will inevitably have an impact on fire and rescue services, residents in Cornwall will not be left without emergency cover in life threatening situations.”
Almost 80 per cent of FBU members voted in favour of industrial action in a ballot that ended earlier this month, although union officials said they left the strike to the last possible moment to allow for the possibility of a negotiated settlement.
General secretary Matt Wrack said: "This initial strike is a warning shot to government. Firefighters could not be more serious about protecting public safety and ensuring fair pensions. Governments in Westminster and Cardiff have simply refused to see sense on these issues.
"It is ludicrous to expect firefighters to fight fires and rescue families in their late 50s: the lives of the general public and firefighters themselves will be endangered. None of us want a strike, but we cannot compromise on public and firefighter safety."
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