STAFFORDSHIRE’S Chief Fire Officer says he doesn’t think Fire Brigade Union strikes will make a difference to firefighters’ pensions.
Peter Dartford gave his views on the ongoing strikes during a visit to Burton yesterday, arguing that for any change to be made a different approach needed to be taken with the right people.
He said: “If you reflect on the fact that strikes have been happening since last September and we are not in a particularly different situation today than what we were back then, you have to question the effectiveness of the strike action.
“I have always been of the opinion that strikes achieve very little.
“The reality is that when the fire service is not operating normally our communities are at greater risk, and we would prefer not to be in that position.”
The FBU has been in negotiations with the Government for three years in an attempt to avoid the implementation of proposals they say would see firefighters paying more and working longer
Mr Dartford said the best way to bring about change would be by talking to the people making the decisions.
A vicious circle has been created where the Government is refusing to talk to the FBU while members are striking, but the union refuses to relent until change is implemented.
He added: “I don’t think strikes are helping, nor are the conditions that the Government puts on because they say they won’t talk while the FBU has strikes pending.
“What you need to do is have the Government and the FBU sit down together and keep talking until they find a solution to those issues, and the sooner they do that the better because we have a whole raft of other things to do.”
Mr Dartford did, however, empathise with the stance of striking firefighters.
He said: “I’m in a fortunate position because I have completed more than 30 years, so I’ve already secured a full pension, and because I’m within 10 years of retirement my benefits are protected.
“The issue is for those who fall outside of the protection. There’s a large feeling of inconsistency between the approach to the fire service and the approach to the police, whose pensions are protected from the age of 38, whereas firefighters’ pensions aren’t protected until they turn 45, so there is quite a sense of unfairness.”