PEOPLE are being urged to take steps to ensure their safety at home and at work when firefighters go on strike over eight consecutive days this month.
As well taking industrial action between 10am and 7pm today (Thursday), Fire Brigades Union members are also walking out for 15 two-hour stoppages between Monday, July 14 and Monday, July 21.
Union bosses accuse the Government of trying to impose an unworkable pension scheme on firefighters, while Fire Minister Brandon Lewis has branded the latest in a line of strike action as an unnecessary disruption of a taxpayer-funded service.
Tam MacFarlane, FBU executive council member for the South-West, said Government plans to alter firefighters’ pensions were “unrealistic, unachievable and unaffordable”.
“Currently firefighters pay 14% of their wages into an occupational pension scheme because it’s a physically demanding job and they have to retire at 55,” said Mr MacFarlance.
“The Government plans to increase that to 60 despite evidence showing two-thirds of our members won’t be able to reach the fitness standards required due to the ageing process and no fault of their own.”
He added that the FBU had done everything possible to end the dispute over the past three years, but blamed the Government for “not listening”.
“No firefighter wants to strike – we understand the job we do plus we’ve got families to feed, but we simply can’t stand back,” said Mr MacFarlane.
“We’re not going to simply stand by.”
He said firefighters would turn out in a “major emergency” during any strike period.
A Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said the authority has a legal duty to maintain a level of service.
He added: “We will continue to respond to 999 calls and will do everything we can to keep the public safe.
“You can help us by taking extra care and time to think about fire safety in your home during this period - checking smoke alarms, ensuring you know that you would do if there was a fire and not making unnecessary calls to the fire and rescue service.
“Businesses are also reminded to be mindful of their responsibilities, as during periods of industrial action the service may not be able to respond to fire safety enquiries within its usual timescales.”
Mr Lewis accused the FBU of “disrupting a taxpayer-funded service” with “unnecessary” strikes.
He added: “Under the new scheme, a firefighter who earns £29,000 will still be able to retire after a full career aged 60, get a £19,000 a year pension, rising to £26,000 with the state pension.
“Public safety will remain the primary focus and if they need help, people should dial 999 – they will get a response.”
LATEST FIREFIGHTER STIKE TIMES AND DATES.
Monday, July 14: 6am to 8am; 5pm to 7pm.
Tuesday, July 15: 6am to 8am; 5pm to 7pm.
Wednesday, July 16: 6am to 8am; 5pm to 7pm.
Thursday, July 17: 6am to 8am; 5pm to 7pm.
Friday, July 18: 6am to 8am; 11pm to 1am.
Saturday, July 19: 11am to 1pm; 11pm to 1am.
Sunday, July 20: 5pm to 7pm.
Monday, July 21: 6am to 8am; 5pm to 7pm.
DEVON & SOMERSET FIRE & RESCUE SERVICE ADVICE.
*Install a smoke alarm and test it weekly.
*Take extra care in the kitchen, where most fires start.
*Check electrical appliances – turn them off, don’t overload sockets.
*If you smoke, put cigarettes out properly.
*Check everything at home before going to bed.
*Plan a safe escape in the event of an emergency.