FIREFIGHTERS across East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire are returning to work this morning following a 24-hour strike over pension changes.
Firefighters from Burton fire station in Moor Street, and those stationed across the border in Civic Way, Swadlincote walked out at 9am yesterday for what was the longest period of industrial action ever taken. They are also planning a second strike on June 22 if no agreement is reached.
Government ministers are considering plans to raise their retirement age from 55 to 60 as well as increasing their pension contributions.
However, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) says that many firefighters could fail the fitness tests required to remain on duty before they reach the retirement age. They have been negotiating with the government to oppose the changes for three years.
Barry Downey, secretary for the FBU in Staffordshire says that as a result, taking industrial action is the only way that the government can be brought to the negotiating table. He told the Mail: “It seems that going on strike is the only thing that will make the government listen.
“It’s ridiculous to expect fire fighters to work into their 50s and their own report even tells them that. It’s especially applicable to female fire fighters.”
“We’ve been working with politicians who have been raising our concerns in Parliament but so far we don’t seem to be getting anywhere. We’ve had good support from members of the public.”
When asked whether the decision to strike for 24 hours would put the safety of the public at risk, Mr Downey added: “The government said that they have adequate contingency plans, but we would dispute that as they are not all professional fire fighters.
“If they want to put an end to this, then they need to make sure adequate provisions are in place.”