10:47 Friday 03 January 2014

Unions hoping latest fire strikes will be the last

Written byRICH GUTTRIDGE

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FIRE union bosses have said they hope strikes which took place in the region this morning will be the last.

The last of three planned strikes over the Christmas period took place between 6.30am and 8.30am as the row over pensions rumbled on.

The two-hour strike passed without incident in Burton and South Derbyshire, while suggestions that it could have been cancelled at the last minute due to flooding fears were rubbished by union chiefs.

But the Fire Brigades Union said it hoped the latest action would be enough to make the Government ‘get around the negotiating table’.

Firefighters have down tools frequently since September, including at some of their busiest periods such as the build-up to Bonfire Night and the Christmas and new year period.

The row surrounds Government proposals to change the retirement age from 55 to 60.

Union bosses fear that if firefighters fail fitness tests beyond the age of 55 they will be forced out of work due to a lack of operational roles in the service.

Chris Tapp, secretary of the Derbyshire Fire Brigades Union, said: “We understand there has been correspondence regarding future discussions and we will see what the position is early next week.

“Hopefully the position will be that we will avoid strike action in the short term.”

Mr Tapp said that firefighters were not happy being on strike but they had been left with no other option.

He said: “No firefighter wants to be on strike. Firefighters are feeling pretty low and this is the only option they have been left with.

“They don’t want to be on strike, they understand it poses a risk to the public but they have to defend their position.

“There are 100,000 firefighters facing the sack because they are getting old. That’s a natural thing for everyone.”

Meanwhile, as the country continues to be battered by storms, there had been suggestions crews in the region would cancel their strike, but Mr Tapp said: “We didn’t hear anything from the Environment Agency and there were no discussions about suspending the strike.”

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